Crystal City, Virginia
April 29, 2018
April 29, 2018
May 2, 2018
Each year, significant investment of time and resources is made to improve diversity within engineering across a range of federal and state agencies, private/not-for-profit organizations, and foundations. In spite of decades of investments, efforts have not yielded desired returns - participation by minorities continues to lag at a time when STEM workforce requirements are increasing. In recent years a new stream of data has emerged - online social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn - that acts as a key sensor of social behavior and attitudes among the U.S. population. Almost 87% of the American population now participates in some form of social media activity. Consequently, social networking sites have become powerful indicators of social action and social media data has shown significant promise for studying many issues including public health communication, political climate, humanitarian crisis, and, social movements. We argue that social media data can likewise be leveraged to better understand and improve engineering diversity. As a case study to illustrate the viability of the approach, we present findings from a campaign, #ILookLikeandEngineer, aimed at increasing gender diversity in the engineering workplace. We collected 19,354 original Tweets and 29,529 Retweets. For each Tweet, we extracted the following metadata: text, retweet count, favorite count, and time of tweet; for the user: name, screen name, location, followers, following, likes, and number of statuses. Our analysis of the data demonstrates that although diversity initiatives attract a lot of voices in support of diversity, on the ground action is limited. Furthermore, campaigns are often quickly co-opted by organizations in their own self-interest rendering the overall effort ineffective. On the positive side, such campaigns provide a continuous momentum to the overall effort to increase diversity and novel ways of connecting with relevant audience.
Malik, A., & Johri, A., & Handa, R., & Karbasian, H., & Purohit, H. (2018, April), #ILookLikeAnEngineer: Using Social Media-Based Hashtag Activism Campaigns as a Lens to Better Understand Engineering Diversity Issues Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://www.jee.org/29505
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