A new report addresses the “vitally important” issue of diversity in computer science and offers an array of recommendations to improve retention rates in undergraduate computer science programs.

In “Retention in Computer Science Undergraduate Programs in the U.S.: Data Challenges and Promising Interventions,” the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) encourages higher-ed institutions to offer proactive advising so students are exposed to career opportunities and pathways early in their undergraduate experience.

Addressing the gender and diversity gaps are of utmost importance to computer science programs and careers, according to the authors.

The underrepresentation of women and people from groups underrepresented in computing raises concerns for a variety of reasons, including issues of equity and fairness; the economic and competitive imperative of ensuring a large and diverse U.S. workforce; the fact that better solutions are developed by teams with a diversity of people and perspectives; and the increasing interdependency between American democracy and the ability to understand and navigate the presentation of information through technology.

“Even as ‘CS for All’ has taken on a life of its own in the United States and an increasing number of schools are offering computer science courses, the demographics of the students involved in computing remain stubbornly consistent,” according to the authors. “Despite recent increases in enrollment, by the time students start high school, computer science is predominately the domain of White boys. The percentage of girls and minorities enrolled in computer science classes is far smaller than the percentage of girls and minorities enrolled in school; their representation in computing is disproportionately small. Similar demographics persist in higher education.”

ACM developed the report with a 15-member retention committee, drawn from expert faculty from a varied group of university computer programs and chaired by Chris Stephenson from Google and Alison Derbenwick Miller from Oracle.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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