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Principal Investigator: Mia Ong

Funder: National Science Foundation

The Council for Opportunity in Education, in collaboration with TERC, seeks to advance the understanding of social and cultural factors that increase retention of women of color in computing; and implement and evaluate a mentoring and networking intervention for undergraduate women of color based on the project's research findings. Computing is unique because it ranks as one of the STEM fields that are least populated by women of color, and because while representation of women of color is increasing in nearly every other STEM field, it is currently decreasing in computing - even as national job prospects in technology fields increase. The project staff will conduct an extensive study of programs that have successfully served women of color in the computing fields and will conduct formal interviews with 15 professional women of color who have thrived in computing to learn about their educational strategies. Based on those findings, the project staff will develop and assess a small-scale intervention that will be modeled on the practices of mentoring and networking which have been established as effective among women of color who are students of STEM disciplines. By partnering with Broadening Participation in Computing Alliances and local and national organizations dedicated to diversifying computing, project staff will identify both women of color undergraduates to participate in the intervention and professionals who can serve as mentors to the undergraduates in the intervention phase of the project. Assisting the researchers will be a distinguished Advisory Board that provides expertise in broadening the representation of women of color in STEM education. The external evaluator will provide formative and summative assessments of the project's case study data and narratives data using methods of study analysis and narrative inquiry and will lead the formative and summative evaluation of the intervention using a mixed methods approach. The intervention evaluation will focus on three variables: 1) students' attitudes toward computer science, 2) their persistence in computer science and 3) their participant attitudes toward, and experiences in, the intervention. 

This project extends the PIs' previous NSF-funded work on factors that impact the success of women of color in STEM. The project will contribute an improved understanding of the complex challenges that women of color encounter in computing. It will also illuminate individual and programmatic strategies that enable them to participate more fully and in greater numbers. The ultimate broader impact of the project should be a proven, scalable model for reversing the downward trend in the rates at which women of color earn bachelor's degrees in computer science.