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Board 146: Increasing Women’s Participation in Undergraduate Computing and Engineering with Systemic Change

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Leisa D. Thompson University of Virginia

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Dr. Leisa Thompson is a Research Scientist in Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Virginia. She also works for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) as the Director of Research and Consulting for the NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs. Dr. Thompson conducts research on systemic reform that focus on recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in undergraduate computing and engineering programs. Dr. Thompson has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and over 15 years of corporate experience in Engineering and Information Technology as an applications engineer, systems administrator, systems engineer, and senior consultant for companies such as Xerox, Hughes Electronics, and IBM Corporation. She has also presented at various regional, national, and international conferences.

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Lecia Jane Barker University of Colorado, Boulder

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Lecia Barker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder and a Senior Research Scientist for the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Lecia conducts research in attracting, retaining, and advancing groups underrepresented in computing. Her research focuses on social climate, identity/belonging, faculty adoption of teaching and curricular practices, and sustainable organizational change. She advocates changing social and educational environments so that all students can develop a sense of belonging, not on changing students so that they fit into unwelcome environments. She presents on how to get girls and women into computing education from high school through graduate education and how to retain in the field.

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The [ES program] works with undergraduate computing and engineering departments to bring about systemic reform in disciplines where women and other groups are severely underrepresented. The approach is a successful intervention model for changing the way students experience the major and has yielded notable success; between 2013 and 2016, computing departments working with the [ES program] increased newly enrolled female majors from 13% to 19% and preliminary results show women’s graduations increased from 13% to 15%.

The [ES program] uses a consultant-based approach to promote evidence-based practices for improving the experience of the major for all students, rather than expecting women to conform to existing, disadvantageous conditions. Client departments are encouraged to adopt strategies that bring the greatest return on investment in the shortest time with the smallest resource commitment, and that can be integrated into existing programs and practices. Increasing participation in undergraduate programs requires a multi-pronged, systemic approach including targeted recruitment, inclusive pedagogy, meaningful assignments and curriculum, academic and social support for students, high-level institutional support and appropriate policies, and ongoing assessment of progress.

The NSF grant in division EHR/DRL is a 5-year collaborative grant between four institutions to serve the disciplines with the lowest representation of women: computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. The project guided and supported college/university departments for a two-year period as they worked to increase their recruitment and retention of women. Each client institution was required to obtain high-level administrative commitment and establish an interdepartmental team of change agents from computer science and at least one engineering department; in many cases, the cooperative department teams included multiple computing and engineering departments. Between 2013 and 2016, the [ES program] served 30 U.S. institutions divided into two cohorts of 15 schools each. Cooperative teams were supported by experienced consultants who are social scientist or evaluators trained by the [ES program] to identify and address the specific conditions that lead to women’s underrepresentation in computing and engineering disciplines. A dedicated consultant educated, coached, and guided each client team over a two-year period. Each client team collaboratively developed a strategic recruiting and retention plan, received a mini-grant to implement activities aimed at initiating and improving recruiting and retention practices, and received travel funds to attend an annual meeting to share goals, ideas, and practices with other [ES program] client teams. Additionally, teams were required to provide enrollment, retention, and graduation data for independent measurement of progress and formally report outcomes of recruiting and retention activities.

Our poster will describe the successful [ES program] systemic reform model, consulting process, resources, and outcomes.

Thompson, L. D., & Barker, L. J. (2018, June), Board 146: Increasing Women’s Participation in Undergraduate Computing and Engineering with Systemic Change Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29947

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