Finally, what can individuals do? We
underestimate the power of encouragement, in my opinion. Once I heard a
young woman tell an audience, “I am
a computer scientist today, because of
three words that a professor wrote on
my exam.” In response to a recent post
on my Facebook page, a woman wrote,
“And here, just this past week, I once
again happened upon my first CS1 exam
upon which Gloria had written, ‘CS Major????’” (Ashley had saved the exam for
15 years). I encourage all of my talented
students—both men and women. Woman after woman later tells me (as these
two did) how my words influenced her.
The number of men who have expressed
the same sentiment? Zero!
This story is bittersweet. It’s sad that
women hunger for words of encouragement and value notes that take seconds
to write. At the same time, this story
about encouragement tells us how we—
as sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers,
partners, teachers, and other mentors—
can change girls’ and women’s lives.
An important time to encourage
girls is in elementary school. These
very young girls have as much interest
in computing and technology as young
boys do. There’s no unimportant time
to encourage, because girls begin to
lose interest as they progress through
middle school and high school. Support the many worthwhile programs
that target girls and college women.
Above all, use only supportive language
when talking with girls and young
women about computing.
Immigrants Help Solve the
Looming STEM Worker Shortage
April 12, 2019
As an engineering hardware manager
working in the rapidly growing automotive electronics industry, I’ve been
baffled by politicians who champion
anti-immigration policies. If we want
our economy to prosper, we should
eagerly welcome the world-class talent
that’s knocking at our door.
I should know. I’ve witnessed first-
hand the excellence newcomers bring
to this country. About half of my 30-
person engineering team is comprised
of foreign-born workers or children of
recent immigrants. As a hiring man-
ager, I have recruited the best, assem-
bling a whip-smart, talented group that
keeps us on the cutting edge of a highly
Car companies like Mercedes-Benz and Ford hire us to make high-tech accessories for their cars, such
as screens, radios, embedded cell-phones, and Wi-Fi devices. As connectivity devices become more integral to
the car industry, demand for our work
continues to rise. I have worked in this
industry for more than 15 years and
see how important diversity is to staying ahead of the competition. The type
of work we do is highly technical, but
also creative, because we are always
trying to solve problems. That’s why
the diverse perspectives on my team
are so critical to helping us find out-of the-box solutions faster. Additionally, many of our bilingual employees
give us a competitive advantage in the
global economy. I’m proud to work
alongside colleagues who work every
day to make safer cars that improve
I have heard people say they want to
restrict immigration because they fear
immigrants will take our jobs. But in my
experience, there are not enough Amer-ican-born workers to fill all these jobs. I
just looked through a stack of résumés
for summer internships, and the vast
majority of applicants were immigrants
or first- and second-generation Americans. This is emblematic of a broader
trend: immigrants play a large role in
science, technology, engineering, and
math—or “STEM”—fields. In my home
state of Illinois, for example, 24.1% of
STEM workers were born in another
country, according to a New American
Economy analysis of various 2017 datasets ( https://www.newamericanecono-my.org/locations/illinois/).
It is difficult to overstate this importance because employment in STEM
jobs has grown significantly, exceeding overall job growth (https://pewrsr.
ch/2UUpyPA). From 1990 to 2016,
STEM occupations have grown 79%,
with computer jobs increasing 338%
over that same period, according to the
Pew Research Center (https://pewrsr.
ch/2vv5gBN). These fields are expected
to play a critical role in future U.S. economic growth.
In my state–Illinois–the labor mar-
ket for tech talent is tighter than that
on the coasts. That is why I support
policies that help keep these skilled
workers right here, where they can con-
tribute to the workforce and the econo-
my. In Illinois alone, immigrants con-
tribute $17.6 billion in taxes, include
118,055 entrepreneurs, and employ
390,685 people ( http://bit.ly/2DJtvRr).
Nationally, they pay $405.4 billion in
taxes, account for nearly 3. 2 million
entrepreneurs, and create approxi-
mately 8 million jobs (http://bit.
ly/2vtCYb5). If our country’s policies
send the message “we don’t want you
here,” then where will all this talent
go? To foreign competitors.
I am lucky to have a team of tal-
ented engineers, but I know the tech
industry as a whole struggles to find
the skilled workers it needs. The re-
cent spate of anti-immigration policies
doesn’t help their case. The H-1B visa
program, which is the main way U.S.
companies hire high-skilled foreign
workers, is capped at 65,000 visas, plus
an additional 20,000 visas for foreign
applicants with a U.S. graduate degree
( http://bit.ly/2VDzoK4). Demand for
these workers in recent years far ex-
ceeds the available number of visas.
Last year, nearly 200,000 people ap-
plied ( http://bit.ly/2vyg5De), and for the
past six consecutive years, the H-1B visa
cap has been reached within a week of
the application period opening (http://
bit.ly/2PCMS3a). And existing H-1B visa
holders are grappling with the looming
possibility the program allowing their
spouses to work is on the chopping
block ( http://bit.ly/2J8teuO). This pres-
ents just another incentive to move to a
country that is more inclusive.
Immigrants play a critical role in
filling labor gaps; we should be embracing them. That means reversing
policies that deter the hiring of foreign-born workers, creating a more streamlined immigration process, and cultivating a more supportive environment
Increasing immigration is the key
to keeping our economy thriving. And
the great thing about America is that
people want to come here. So let’s welcome them with open arms.
Gloria Townsend is a professor, and department chair of
computer science, at DePauw University in Greencastle,
IN, USA. Sheldon Waite is an engineering hardware
manager in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs.
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