Thursday, June 26, 2008

UK: Equalities Bill permits "positive discrimination"

Well, it appears issues of access and diversity are not limited to US (I kinda suspected that :-) -- a story at BBC online (another story here) tells of an effort by Equality Minister Harriet Harman (photo right) "... to allow firms to discriminate in favour of female and ethnic minority job candidates." It also introduced the term"positive discrimination" to me, not that discrimination is good, but the active, direct use of discrimination to induce/produce whatever demographic outcome is the goal of the project. Feels like making a right from two (or more) wrongs, maybe even justifying means with ends (OK, I am now out of metaphors).

I am also concerned about providing such a legal tool for whatever reason, I suspect it can be used retroactively to justify bad/improper decisions/actions. For example, might I be able to hire another person of type x over other candidates that would produce a more accepted diversity and justify this choice with logic like, "our company deals with people of type x so ...." Perhaps not the best example, but it seems like legislating a policy that needs to be induced with some incentive (like profit or efficiency or access).

Still, it is my understanding that colleges do this all the time to ensure diversity across the student population, affirmative action exists ... I suppose the goal is substantially easier to agree upon that the means to get there (sounds like vacation planning).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Higher Education in Africa

Just quickly handing off to a post by Ian Foster (photo right) about a report on higher education in Africa, with one of the conclusions (?) that low enrollments are less about demand (see later in the post about students paying for internet access with a high percentage of their available income) and more about "access," and that higher education enrollment level strongly correlates with national income.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dear Abby; Hispanic Education

Well, whaddya know, even "Dear Abby" is working to help promote technical education, you're welcome to check one of her recent articles -- thanks to Marty Wolf for the heads-up (now, that would be an interesting special session at a SIGCSE conference :-).

The program involved does try to target "... [r]eturning veterans, people with disabilities, youth-at-risk and dislocated workers interested in participating in the program ..." -- hey, we can use all the help and access we can get.

This just in ...

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans is proud to announce a Summit on Education Reform and Hispanic Education Attainment that will be held on Thursday, September 11, 2008 in Washington, DC. Please mark your calendars and plan on attending this substantive event in our nation's capital. More specific details on the summit and a registration form will be forthcoming soon. Please make plans to attend the White House Initiative summit on September 11.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shooting CS in the foot ..

So, the theme for SIGCSE 2008, Diversity through Accessibility (and this continuing blog) served the conference well, helping to bring out experts in two related camps and hope they talk, connect, and explore. Well, I just logged in this morning, and this post (warning: this "joke" may offend; it did me) from a blog I subscribe to appeared and just threw me -- I think most of the "people of SIGCSE" would be stunned as well, but this is just a reminder of how such issues of culture and (mis)perception can have lasting and negative impact. This type of comment hurts both access and diversity.

Perhaps some may read and think that I am making a mountain out of a molehill -- in fact, I am trying to turn this molehill/mountain into a level playing field.


Addendum: for more evidence of the impact of such "bad form", see this recent article on the observation that about 52% of women in IT leave the field, many citing "sexual harassment" and other demeaning treatment/attitudes (63% reported) -- yikes :-(