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Work in Progress: A Novel Professional Development Program for Addressing Systemic Barriers to Computing Participation


Technology’s pervasiveness, its impact, and the economic mobility of its creators demand that all people drive the future of computing. Nonetheless, computing is dominated by white and Asian, able-bodied, middle-to-upper-class, cisgender men. Even with recent enrollment increases in undergraduate computing departments (i.e., computer science, computer engineering, etc.) in the United States, participation of Black, Indigenous, Latine/Hispanic, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, women, LGBTQ+, disabled, and economically disadvantaged groups remains low [1]– [3].

The effects of this lack of diversity are evident in academic and workplace cultures as well as in biased/harmful technologies (e.g., facial recognition, predictive policing, public services, healthcare, and financial software) that negatively impact and exclude non-dominant identities [2], [4]–[10]. Identity-inclusive computing (IIC) explores how identity impacts and is impacted by computing [11]. This growing area of research blends social science with computer science to infuse topics related to identity (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, and class), discrimination, and intersectionality throughout the discipline, with the goal of creating more inclusive and equitable academic/professional environments (and ultimately, less biased/harmful technologies).

To date, most efforts to increase diversity have centered on marginalized students, without fully acknowledging or addressing the people, practices, and policies that systemically make persistence difficult (if not impossible). This paper introduces a novel, virtual, cohort-based, professional development (PD) program that helps computing administrators, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students to identify and address systemic barriers impacting students and faculty with marginalized identities in computing classrooms and departments. The programmatic objectives are: (1) to increase participant knowledge of identity- related topics, (2) to increase participant self-efficacy to lead initiatives based on an understanding of these topics, and (3) to increase the number of departments implementing more identity-inclusive courses, modules, and other activities.

The program was piloted in the 2020–2021 academic year with over 100 participants from the United States, Canada, Austria, and Nigeria. Data collection included both formative and summative feedback. Likert-scale and open-ended responses were analyzed via descriptive and inferential statistics and thematic analysis. The preliminary results indicate an increase in participant knowledge of identity-inclusive topics, enhanced effort and self-efficacy with respect to designing/implementing identity-inclusive initiatives, and the creation of 67 courses/modules targeting both students and faculty.


Computing, Education & Classroom Learning, Publications