Wednesday Dec 12, 2007

GHC2007: Harvey Mudd College Keynote, Web Accessibility, Improving Engagement of Women in High Tech & Systers Lunch (Day 2 Keynote, Session 1 & 2)

GHC 2007
GHC 2007
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Session/Event:Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College (Day 2, Keynote)

Commentary:
Maria discussed why it's the best time ever for women in computing.

Best Time Ever


  • Industry & Academia recognize that women have talent (whereas they didn't believe it in the past).
  • Almost everyone wants more women: Industry - intense demand for CS grads. Academia - need for CS students.
  • Recognition that attracting & retaining more women requires change. Need better work-life balance, better introductory CS courses that are both fun and deep, more supportive environments for everyone, more valuing of broader range of interests and styles. [What industry needs most is CS people who have other interests; people who can bridge 2 or more related fields. You can combine computing with almost every other interest: travel, art, politics, languages, theatre, etc...)
  • Computing is a key tool in addressing problems facing the world in healthcare, education, environment and more... As an example look at Google's Digital Study Hall. It has huge latency (the contents of the WWW is put on a huge hard drive and sent to small villages around the world. Each week they receive a DVD or email with updates. They are also recording teachers who know how to teach subjects like english, math, science. The technology to watch these DVD's is there but in these small villages electricity is on only 6-8 hours/day and the times change. The DVDs train teachers to teach in a certain way to make it effective as a model.
  • Industry, Academia, Professional Organizations, etc. are creating programs to keep women in the "Computing" pipeline. Women graduate students percentage is higher than the undergraduate percentage.

If all this is true, why are the numbers dropping?


  • There is a myth about IT jobs disappearing
  • The image of "computer jobs" is not attractive
  • The image of CS courses is not attractive
  • CS classes are being cut or are outdated in high schools
  • Industry, Academia, Professional Organizations, etc. are creating programs to keep women in the "Computing" pipeline. Women graduate students percentage is higher than the undergraduate percentage.

So what can WE do about it?
In High School


  • Outreach to schools, parents, teachers:
  • Focus on the unconverted - get yourself invited to talk about something else (slip in creative areas of leadership in CS) at PTA meetings, etc... Take whatever opportunity is offered. Insert truth about CS as an aside.
  • Go where the girls are. Craft messages for math, bio, chem, art, engineering (CS/music, CS/art, CS/writing, etc...)
  • Create/find awesome CS summer camps
  • Have scholarships for HS girls to go to GHC.

In College

  • Create fabulous CS intro (and other) courses
  • Get some CS required or have a Dean advise all students to take a CS course (put in Handbook).
  • Bring Freshman to GHC.
  • Engage post-Freshman in summer research experiences that first summer
  • Make it easy to switch into CS/Double major. e.g. Make a digital-premed program.

Change the Image

  • Have IT companies use advertising budget to brand CS careers
  • Get a female idol as CS spokesperson
  • Get a hot book written about people in CS careers and publicize it.
  • Create a Cool CS Career month
  • Use Social Networking sites

Resources include: NCWIT, Anita Borg, CRA-W, ACM-W.
Action Item: Talk to at least 1 preferably 20 high school girls about computing careers before next Hopper.
Check out Maria's presentation.


Session/Event:Making the Future Web Accessible to People with Disabilities (Day 2, Session 1)

Commentary:
I really enjoyed this session and will try to capture as much of it as possible. You can also check out another blog entry about this session.

Shawn Lawton Henry went into a lot of detail about how to make the web more accessible. She did this primarily through demo's and video's so it will be a little bit hard to represent it here. However, here are some notes I jotted down.

First of all much of what is being done today in this area is thanks to the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Here are some tools being used today.


  • Screen Readers (Reads the text of web pages. Links are in a different voice.)
  • Dynamic Braille Displays (and keyboards)
  • Mouthsticks - for data entry for those paralyzed from neck down
  • Text size increases (Browser settings); Zoom Text (size increases significantly by moving around)

People have many different types of disabilities including congenital (birth), disease/illness, accident or aging. Glenda Watson Hyatt has cerebral palsy and she wrote a book an autobiography called "I can do it myself". She typed the whole book with one thumb.

What are the accessibility issues or barriers?
1. Images pose a challenge. You need to provide a text equivalent. Using the Opera browser you can turn images on/off easily and see that with images off it's ugly. So... ALWAYS USE "ALT" IN YOUR WEB PAGES. A lot of sites aren't doing this one basic thing...
2. Heading in code is used for Navigation. Could be confusing for sighted users - use with discretion. But use headings especially for sections. Without usual layouts, it's like a string of text.
3. Use Markup lists. Don't use tables in place of lists when it's really just a list.
4. Link text. "Click here" links don't work from an accessibility point of view. When tabbing through links in a screen reader it would sound like "here, here, here, here" instead of "content 1, content 2, content 3, content 4".
5. Be aware of color contrast
6. Be aware of text resizing.
7. Use captions and include transcripts where possible. Podcasts for example are not accessible without transcripts.

Guidelines
1. WCAG - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Section 508 is a small subset of WCAG 1.0. A section 508 compliant website may not be 100% fully accessible.
2. The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not related because it was created before the web so it doesn't address this.
3. Users: User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) refer to things like browsers, media players, assistive technologies described above.
4. Developers: ATAG (Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines) includes things like evalution tools & authoring tools.
5. WAI-ARIA is for Accesible Rich Internet Apps like AJAX, DHTML, etc... Standards are under way. Working on a best practices for developers. Specs are available today at www.w3.org/wai
You need to remember to include real people for testing accessibility.

Resources:
Check out Shawn's book Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design
Whitepaper: Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case
Websites:
Guidelines & Checklist
Presentations at WAI
Check Your Work
Just Ask

How to Check for Accessibility
1. Take away your mouse. Is it still accessible? Also, check headings. Opera allows you jump to headings using the "S" key.
2. Turn off images. All major browsers allow you to do this. And/or look at alternate text next to image. In Firefox, display Alt attributes on developer tool bar.
3. Plug in for IE and Opera -> Accessibility add-on. Shows structural elements.
4. Use advanced tools that will run through the whole site.

Action Items:


  • Gently educate & encourage "inaccessible" sites to change.
  • Reward accessible sites


Session/Event:Helping Businesses Invent the Future: Improving Engagement among Women in High Tech(Day 2, Session 2)

Commentary:
Heather Foust-Cummings works for Catalyst, Inc in NY. Catalyst is a non profit organization that helps to expand opportunities for women in business. They are member based and provide access to research, etc... Heather is director of research and telecommutes fulltime. Part of a group of "Ladies with Laptops". She reported on a study that was done looking at recruitment, retention & advancement of women. The study is not yet published.

What can women do to advance?


  • Seek out opportunities to work with other women & find mentors.
  • Volunteer when chances to participate across departments or BU's arise. (e.g. Work on a task force)
  • Network!!!
  • Be proactive


Session/Event:Systers Lunch

Commentary:
Lunch with systers organizer Robin Jeffries who works for Google. Nice to put faces to names.

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