S4-D&BP4-2 - Understanding the Experiences that Contribute to the Inclusion of Underrepresented Groups in Computing

3. Research Full Paper
Maral Kargarmoakhar1 , Stephanie Lunn1, Leila Zahedi1, Monique Ross1, Zahra Hazari1, Mark Weiss1, Michael Georgiopoulos2, Ken Christensen3, Tiana Solis1
1 Florida International University
2 University of Central Florida
3 University of South Florida

Topic Keyword(s): Computing, inclusion, experiences

Full Paper- The lack of diversity in computing fields in the United States is a known issue. Students enter the computing fields with the intention of graduating; however, a large number leave and do not persist after enrolling in computing fields due to discrimination and biases. This particularly concerns groups already underrepresented in computing fields, such as women, Black/African American students, and Hispanic/Latinx students. There are varied experiences that can make students feel more included or excluded in the field. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, there are 10 high-impact practices that are beneficial for students; especially for historically underserved students. These experiences include internships, undergraduate research, capstone courses, and projects, etc. In this study, we examine the importance of each experience including the high impact practices on student’s inclusion and exclusion in the computing fields. This work utilizes data from a collaborative research study conducted at three large public universities (n=1650) in Florida. The research questions guiding this study are: 1) To what extent do female students’ experiences influence their feelings of inclusiveness in the field?; and 2) To what extent do the experiences of students with different races/ethnicities influence their feelings of inclusiveness in the field? 

Drawing on Astin’s I-E-O model and applying a random forest algorithm, we measure the feature importance of 14 distinct experiences on 1650 students’ feelings of computing field inclusivity. The results reveal gender differences in opinions of computing fields’ inclusivity for women. Tutoring experience, being a learning assistant, job offers, and job experiences are considered some of the most important factors for women’s perceived inclusiveness. Contrarily, interacting with students in different years, industry internships, attendance to social events organized by the department, and being part of the computing group, club, and etc. were influential in men’s perception of women’s inclusivity. We also looked at the perceived inclusiveness of computing fields for ethnically and racially underrepresented groups, including Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinx students. Feature importance demonstrates that job experience, attending social events organized by the department, and mentoring other students had an impact on the inclusivity perceptions for Hispanic students relative to non-Hispanics. Understanding the effect of different experiences on students of both genders with different races and ethnicities on the perceived inclusion could assist the computing community to provide more cohesive experiences that benefit all students, and to help them to feel more welcome.