What better way to spend your Monday than eating a plate full of pizza and learning about diversity and inclusion? On a sunny Monday afternoon, the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted an interactive and intriguing Lunch and Learn event with speaker Colleen Lewis. Lewis, the McGregor-Girand Associate Professor of Computer Science (CS) at Harvey Mudd College, researches gender and diversity issues in CS education – specifically introductory CS courses – and how programming environment shapes perception, learning and goals.
RENCI, which is dedicated to forward thinking by finding innovative ways to improve their organization and community, elicited Lewis’ expertise to reinforce the University’s ongoing initiative to recognize and combat the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion. More specifically, RENCI wanted to explore how to recognize unbiased prejudices. Lewis used her own experiences and research to share where unbiased/biased prejudices are noticed daily and her presentation brought these areas of concern to life.
Part of Lewis’ presentation focused on human resource-related topics. For example, how can we interrupt bias in the realm of hiring and create institutional change? In a study by K.L. Milkman, titled What Happens Before? A Field Experiment Exploring How Pay and Representation Differentially Shape Bias on the Pathway into Organizations, a startling reality was uncovered. A candidate’s likelihood of moving from applicant to interviewee was more times than not decided on their name alone (in the study, “Brad Anderson” was predominantly chosen over “ethnic” sounding names). In another study by M. Bertrand, Are Emily and Greg more Employable than Lakisha and Jamal, it was revealed that when resumes were submitted to 1,300 jobs, “white names” received 50% more callbacks.
“Colleen’s diversity and inclusion training contained an abundance of profound analogies, which resulted in a few glass-shattering moments,” noted Jordan Todd, senior human resource consultant at UNC-CH. “She is an engaging presenter who is not afraid to use colorful and cringeworthy examples, yet she remains relatable by using her own experiences to demonstrate opportunities for growth.”
Not only was the content interesting, but Colleen’s enthusiasm and interaction with the crowd made this presentation anything but mundane. Bonnie Hurst, senior research project manager, found the session engaging and genuine, noting, “Colleen made me think about the things we say in day-to-day life and what the impact can be.”
One way Lewis brought her presentation to life was through a card game she created and developed called Microaggressions; The Game! Similar to games such as Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, Microaggressions; The Game! uses real life scenarios involving questionable diversity and inclusion scenarios in the workplace to prompt discussion around how to effectively handle tough situations. Microaggressions; The Game! Starts with a card being read and listeners offering their answers verbally. The reader picks the answer that best suits the card and the winner will keep the card.
For example, a card will read, “A colleague says, ‘We do a lot to hire women, but then they just leave; it isn’t worth it.’ How would you answer your co-worker?” These tough conversations happen every day in the workplace and through training like Colleen’s, we can prepare ourselves to handle them properly.
RENCI’s Diversity Liaison, Bryttany Todd, appreciated the insight gleaned from Colleen’s hands-on training. “Her anecdotes really brought the message to life,” said Todd. “Plus, we got to practice what we learned immediately with a fun card game!”
For helpful tips about critical listening, reducing bias and inclusivity in the sciences (and elsewhere), visit the National Center for Women & Information Technology at ncwit.org or csteachingtips.org.
Written by Jeremy Zollars and Bryttany Todd, RENCI