THE APRIL 2017 edition of Communications included an editorial from ACM-W on the status of gender diversity in computing and the painstakingly slow progress being made toward an equitable representation of
women in our discipline. In that editorial, Valerie Barr highlighted ACM’s
commitment to diversity more generally via a new ACM Council on Diversity. Work on the establishment of this
Council is continuing and ACM-W
looks forward to being a part of this
In the interim, our work on behalf
of women in computing continues in
earnest. Since the beginning of 2017,
there have been 26 new ACM-W Student Chapters chartered. During the
2017–2018 academic year, a record 29
Celebrations of Women in Comput-
ing are being held in locations all over
the world. Our connections to ACM
SIGs and partner organizations out-
side of ACM are strengthening. We re-
cently endorsed important legislation
pending in the U.S. Congress that
holds promise to increase computing
education to girls in the elementary
grades.a With several other profes-
sional organizations in science and
mathematics, ACM-W is participating
in a three-year project to gather signif-
icant and currently unavailable global
data about women’s participation in
I could fill this column with more
examples of the work of our many
dedicated ACM-W volunteers, but I
think it is important to focus a bit on
a Press release of this legislation can be found at
b The Gender Gap in Science project can be followed at https://icsugendergapinscience.org/.
a nagging question that many of us
who work so hard in this space of
gender equity in computing have.
Why, with so much sustained effort
by so many individuals and organizations, is progress toward gender
equity so slow?
Of course, if there was a known answer to this question we would not
still be asking it. We know that ultimately there must be significant systemic change on many fronts including pre-tertiary education, workplace
environment, and societal perception of computing professionals. Systemic change is difficult work that
can take many years to realize. Systemic change will not be achieved if
responsibility for realizing gender
equity is viewed as belonging to the
women in computing or the many organizations whose primary focus is
gender equity. The change will occur
only when every individual computing professional accepts responsibility for making it happen.
ACM as an organization impacts
our profession through the individual
and collective work of its membership. In order for ACM to have a bigger influence on the state of gender
equity in computing, every ACM
member, regardless of gender, must
do her or his part to understand the
problem, create inclusive environments, speak out on issues that impact the experience of women in
computing, and advocate for social
change that will turn the tide long-term. Individual investment in the
work of gender diversity will transform the special interest groups,
chapters, and conferences of ACM in
ways that will redefine our external
image and expand our ability to influence societal change.
So what can an individual do on a
daily basis to ensure her/his environment fosters inclusiveness? I posed
this question out to a few members of
the ACM-W Council and received lots
of good suggestions. Here are just a few
˲Once a month become familiar with at least one woman in your
office or on your campus that you do
not know and then introduce them to
˲ Read about unconscious bias and
stereotype threat so that you can recognize these things when they occur and
speak out against them.
˲ Ensure that original ideas are attributed to the first person (not the first
male) to make the suggestion.
˲ Say a few sincere, kind words to a
female colleague regarding her work.
There were many more great ideas
generated and I am confident the ACM
community has even more to offer. I invite you to read a recent blog post
224005) and contribute your own
strategies for supporting women in
computing in the workplace.
ACM has the potential to set the
standard for what it means to be an
organization committed to solving issues of gender diversity in computing.
It may even be possible that a day will
come when ACM-W will no longer need
to exist. Until then, ACM-W will continue to engage in activities that support,
celebrate, and advocate for women in
computing and we welcome all who
will join with us.
Jodi L. Tims ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the computer
science department at Baldwin Wallace University, Berea,
OH, USA, and chair of ACM-W.
Copyright held by author.
Achieving Gender Equity:
ACM-W Can’t Do It Alone
DOI: 10.1145/3173556 Jodi L. Tims
from the chair of acm-w