Improving the Balance

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

Jennifer Martin's recent article "Ten Simple Rules to Achieve Conference Speaker Gender Balance" reminded me that while we've been reporting the number of workshops we've run, and the number of people who've attended, we haven't reported the gender balance among our instructors in a while. I did a quick check, and the result was sobering. From a high of almost 30% eighteen months ago, our instructor pool is now only 18% female. It seems that as we grow, we are regressing to computing's unfortunate mean: from a higher of 38% in the early 1980s, the proportion of computer science degrees awarded to women has dropped to 15-18%, and CS is the only STEM discipline where the gender balance has actually been getting worse over the past few decades.

One thing we can do to address this is run more workshops specifically for women in science and engineering, and work harder to recruit new instructors from their attendees. It would be great to do this in partnership with organizations like AWIS and NCWIT, but setting that up will take time, and time costs money. If we're going to ramp up our work in this area, we're going to need to find sponsorship.

Another thing we can do right away is add a section on diversity to the instructor training course to help our instructors avoid common mistakes. We started work on material for this last fall, but didn't complete it. If you have time to help move it forward, please get in touch.

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