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Diversity, outside look on an inside perspective- A conference experience

November 1, 2005

  • Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 
  • Time: 11:00-12:15pm. 
  • Place: Woodward 149

Andree Jacobson Department of Computer Science, University of New Mexico

Did you ever reflect over the vast majority of white men in the field of computing sciences? If you are a typical white male, you probably didn’t – you’re the norm – why should you worry? Now, put yourself in the shoes of someone outside of this “typical” group, trying to enter your playing field? What does it feel like to be one out of three women in a classroom of 150 male students, or an afro-american person looking for a job in a company where 95% of the employees are white? What does it feel like, to be a minority in computer science?

Many people think, that being a minority would make so many things easier. It’s much easier to get a scholarship because there’s less competition, and there are so many opportunities available for minorities that just aren’t there if you’re a “typical” computing sciences person. If you truly believe this – how come there are still so few people from minorities in our field, and even if they do enter a CS program, they are statistically much more unlikely to graduate, than the typical white male?

With CS enrollment dropping all over the country, it is especially noticed in the minority populations. Therefore, it is important that those of us who belong to a minority know that there is a large support network out there. Also, it’s equally important that those of us who are not considered minority, make an effort not to discriminate against anyone, to minimize any unfair stressors.

The third biannual Richard Tapia conference on diversity in computing just took place in Albuquerque. It is a student oriented conference, targeted toward people belonging to minorities in the field of Computing Sciences. This year there were 350 participants, with over 100 student attendees. I believe the conference did a very good job at targeting some of the pressing issues, and inform those of us who were there, what to look out for, and to how to further increase our understanding of the issues.

In this talk, I will share with you some of the things I experienced during the conference. Please come, listen, and participate with your ideas and reflections.