The UCLA School of Education and Information Studies announced Monday that it has formed a research initiative aimed at bringing women and people of color into the fields of computing education and technology.
“The persistent lack of diversity in computing and technology requires that we achieve greater momentum in seeking evidence-based solutions,” said Linda Sax, a professor of higher education at UCLA and founding director of Momentum: Accelerating Equity in Computing and Technology.
Women currently hold 26% of computing jobs, with Black women and Latinas making up 3% and 1%, respectively, of the tech workforce, according to UCLA.
The initiative — supported by organizations including the National Science Foundation and the Melinda Gates-founded Pivotal Ventures — will engage in research and actions to diversify participation in computing and technology fields; catalog what is known about efforts to diversify computing; and inform “best practices” for broadening participation in computing, according to a university statement.
Researchers will work with the Center for Inclusive Computing at Northeastern University’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences, which provides peer-led technical support and funds for universities and colleges to increase diversity in their undergraduate computing programs.
A baseline survey of first- and second-year students enrolled in computing courses at Center for Inclusive Computing institutions will begin next spring, with a goal of learning about the students’ college experiences and exposure to efforts to promote inclusive environments and make introductory computing courses accessible to students without prior computing experience.
“Focusing on the first- and second-year students taking any computing courses will allow us to gather detailed data on the experiences that promote and discourage students’ recruitment and retention in computing fields, especially for women, women of color in particular, and students from other marginalized groups, including those who do not start out as computing majors,” Sax said.