When Twice as Good Isn't Enough: The Case for Cultural Competence in Computing
2:35 PM - 3:00 PM
Thu Mar 12, 2020


The commonly documented diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues in the computing workforce are the direct result of corporate cultures that benefit specific groups and marginalize others. This culture usually begins in undergraduate computing departments, where the demographic representation mirrors that of industry. With no formal courses that focus on the non-technical issues affecting marginalized groups and how to address and eradicate them, students are indirectly taught that the current status quo in computing departments and industry is not only acceptable, but also unproblematic. This directly affects students from marginalized groups (as the reasons for attrition are similar in both higher education and industry), as well as faculty (as biased student evaluations directly affect hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions).

This position paper presents the need for cultural competence as a required focus for university computing departments nationwide. By improving these issues before students complete baccalaureate computing degrees, companies will have talent pools that better understand the importance and necessity of DEI and also work to ensure they help foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. In addition, more students from marginalized groups will be retained in the major through degree completion.

Nicki Washington Associate Professor, Computer Science, Winthrop University