August 18, 2021
On July 22nd of this year I had the opportunity to participate in a panel at the PEARC21 conference entitled “Diversity in the student pipeline and professional staff: challenges, success stories, and resources.” [PEARC stands for “Practical Experience in Advanced Research Computing” and the abstract from this panel is online at https://pearc21.sched.com/event/kN6D/diversity-in-the-student-pipeline-and-professional-staff-challenges-success-stories-and-resources].
This panel was proposed by my friend Tabitha Samuel (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) and yours truly (for this purpose, Department of Computer Science, Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, Indiana University). Tabitha organized and moderated the panel. It included a stellar group of people who are both leaders in computing and who are leading the way in expanding diversity of the computing community: Gabriella Arenello (Sitting Bull College), Marisa Brazil (Arizona State University), Gwen Jacobs (University of Hawai’i), and Je’aime Powell (Texas Advanced Computing Center).
Based on material from this panel discussion I list below several resources useful to people who wish to fight systemic racism and discrimination and increase the diversity of people in the professional community of computing and information technology experts.
First below is general information about fighting racism and then information about expanding the diversity of the US computing community.
One of the most useful general resources useful in fighting systemic racism has its roots in the computing community. XSEDE (the eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment) has put together a list of words that have offensive and/or racist meanings. Many of these are commonly used today almost certainly without people understanding their origins. I’m pretty careful with my verbiage, having for example replaced “white paper” with “position paper” in my own speaking and writing decades ago. Still I did not understand the origin of the phrase “grandfathered.” In this list of offensive phrases XSEDE in many cases offers a reasonable alternative, while also implying that certain phrases (such as “cretin”) simply be abandoned. This resource is online at https://www.xsede.org/terminology.
Similarly generally useful is the following link on the topic of pronouns: “Pronouns – what and why?” – https://www.mypronouns.org/what-and-why
Hiring a diverse workforce begins with attracting a diverse group of applicants for open positions. That is a lot more difficult to do than one might imagine. Great reading on this topic is: “7 Tech Tools that Help Mitigate Bias in Hiring” – https://shegeeksout.com/seven-tech-tools-to-mitigate-bias-in-hiring/
Books of note:
This IS a ranked list; books that I think are most important for a person who wants to read their way into understanding systemic racism and how to ﬁght it ﬁrst.
- Kerry Patterson & Joseph Grenny. Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. This book is an excellent starting point for conducting difficult conversations – and conversations about systemic racism and discrimination are usually difficult.
- James Baldwin. 1963. The ﬁre next time. If you read just one book on this list, read this one.
- Roxanne Dinbar-Ortiz. 2015. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. This one is listed third for two reasons. It’s not on the radar of most people. And it’s just a compelling compilation of the injustice and tragedy after tragedy that have been inﬂicted upon the indigenous people of North America by the US Government. Everyone in the USA should read this book.
- Ibram X. Kendi. 2019. How to be an anti-racist.
- Akiba Solomon and Kenrya Rankin. 2019. How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance.
- Isabel Wilkerson. 2020. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
- Mary Klages. 2017. Literary Theory: The complete guide. Why is this here? It’s one of the more accessible entry points for Critical Theory in general.
- Kimberle Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, Kendall Thomas. 1996. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement. Note: this one you have to purchase from used book sellers at the moment
- Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. 2017. Critical Race Theory (Third Edition): An Introduction. Note – the ﬁrst edition of this was published in 2001 – it’s been around a while.
- A CD to listen to: Martin Luther King Jr. In Search Of Freedom: Excerpts From His Most Memorable Speeches. Once you have listened to his speeches, the book “A knock at Midnight” is a great read. But you just can’t get a sense of the speeches from the book unless you have heard a recording of him speaking.
Fun and fascinating / tragic:
- N. K. Jemisin. 2020. The city we became. This is a Sci-Fi novel. Read this book! It will instantaneously make you several percentage points cooler than you already are. Jemisin is for my money the best living sci ﬁ author in existence, bar none. This is the start of her newest trilogy. And for white people, it’s not just an interesting read but an opportunity for a “hey, so that’s what it feels like.” All of the good characters in this book are brown or black.
- David Grann. 2018. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. This is a fascinating historical study of a series of tragic murders of Osage tribal members. The story itself is a tragedy. The sleuthing and writing in this book will keep you on the edge of your seat till the end.
Resources specific to enhancing diversity of the computing field
Current data regarding diversity in the computing field data:
Anti-Manel pledge. What’s a manel? A panel of men. There is an admittedly fairly week pledge: “At a public conference I won’t serve on a panel of two people or more unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the Chair.” You can sign this pledge at https://www.owen.org/pledge/. My personal pledge is much stronger: I will not serve on a panel that is more than 50% Caucasian men.
References of use relative to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Computer Science and Information Technology (most of these from Marissa Brazil):
- Harvard Business Review – tons of great articles! – https://hbr.org/
- National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) – https://ncwit.org/ – tons of great resources
- Women in HPC – https://womeninhpc.org/
- Minority Serving-Cyberinfrastructure Consortium – https://internet2.edu/solutions/minority-serving-institutions/
- EDUCAUSE Women in IT Community Group – https://www.educause.edu/community/women-in-it-community-group
- Harvard Business Review – tons of great articles! – https://hbr.org/
- College University Professional Association – Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Resources – https://www.cupahr.org/knowledge-center/diversity-resources/
- Network Sovereignty: Understanding the Social and Political Implications of Tribal Command of Internet Infrastructure by Maria Elena Duarte – http://marisaduarte.net/tribalbroadband.html
- American Indian Higher Education Consortium – http://aihec.org/index.html
- NCAI Policy Research Center –
Interesting programs of note working to encourage students to pursue careers in computer science and information technology and build a more diverse high-tech workforce in the future (most of these based on conversation during the panel session):
- Texas Advanced Computing Center STEM programs -https://www.tacc.utexas.edu/education/stem-programs
- EPIC – Expanding Pathways in Computing. tacc.utexas.edu/epic
- XSEDE DEI projects – https://www.xsede.org/community-engagement/diversity
- University of Hawai’i Sea grant – a project to promote better understanding, conservation, and use of coastal resources. See in particular the Kulana Noi‘i materials at https://seagrant.soest.hawaii.edu/kulana-noii/ (This information thanks to Gwen Jacobs).
- During the panel session Je’aime Powell talked extensively about how Hackathons had been important in his development as a professional, and how he leads them now as part of his responsibilities in the education and outreach area. Key resources related to hackathons include:
- A great article about the first women-led codeathon that the panel participants collectively know about: https://infocus.nlm.nih.gov/2019/10/17/women-led-codeathon-a-first-for-nlm/
- Je’aime offered the following advice regarding advertising hackathons: Advertise hackathons through honor societies for marginalized groups (like Delta Alpha Phi honor society for disabled students or Sigma Delta Pi for Hispanic students) because then you have someone vouching for you from within those communities.
The above represents the collective work of the panelist at PEARC:
- Tabitha Samuel (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
- Craig Stewart (Department of Computer Science, Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, Indiana University).
- Gabriella Arenello (Sitting Bull College)
- Marisa Brazil (Arizona State University)
- Gwen Jacobs (University of Hawai’i)
- Je’aime Powell (Texas Advanced Computing Center)
Beth Plale (Department of Intelligent Systems Engineering, Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, Indiana University) also contributed to compiling the list of books above.
Any errors in this document are of course my responsibility (Craig Stewart).