Ceredig Cattanach-Chell, Computer Science Subject Advisor
Under-represented groups, including LGBTQI+ people, may sometimes feel that IT and computer science is not a welcoming environment for them. In this blog I take a look at the important part that schools and colleges can play in promoting acceptance and diversity within computing, and how teachers can help by presenting positive role models.
The future starts with the young. Younger generations will define future societal acceptance. It takes strength, courage and conviction to fight the ‘status quo’.
There were two stories recently which brought that into sharp focus. One was the 17 year old Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels coming out as gay. The other slightly different story was that there will be female officials at this year’s men’s World Cup. Whilst both stories are about football, it highlights the challenges that ‘stereotyping’ has. Jake Daniels and other footballers who have revealed that they are gay talk of the relief, confidence and improvement to their game. They also talk about the mass of support they have – but sadly still experience a minority of detractors.
The release around female referees included a quote by Pierluigi Collina (chair of FIFA’s referee committee). And I think that this is very powerful:
“In this way, we clearly emphasise it is quality that counts for us and not gender. I would hope that in the future, the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational.”
Computing has a similarly bad ‘stereotyping’ issue. It has been male dominated, and it’s very rare to hear anything about diversity. And yet we have so many diverse role models who break the stereotype. Here are just a few:
You can read the stories of these, and other computer science pioneers in this Top 10 list of LGBTQI+ pioneers.
The contribution to computing (and society) that these role models have made would generally go unnoticed – or at best, their work is recognised but not necessarily their personal diversity.
Hopefully the more we encourage and promote acceptance and diversity to students and younger generations, the more confident, happy and safe our community will become.
Often it can be hard to breach these topics with students. Stonewall provides general support for teaching about these topics. But what can we do as teachers to help develop and promote diversity in the computer science classroom?
Certainly highlighting role models and developing a safe teaching environment/community in our schools is paramount. The earlier we introduce this the better.
Discussing role models and having visible reminders, such as posters around school to promote the diverse range of computer scientists in the world can really encourage people from all backgrounds to connect with our subject.
Using the ethical, legal and cultural sections of the specifications can lead to opportunities for discussing diversity as well. This could also include such things as:
We have a long way to go as a society in terms of acceptance of all humans as equals. But one day, maybe we can hope too that it is quality that counts and having diversity in computer science, and in society in general, is perceived as normal and no longer sensational.
Share your thoughts and suggestions on diversity within computer science in the comments below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @OCR_ICT on Twitter. You can also sign up to our subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Ceredig joined OCR in September 2015 incorporating his breadth of experience from education to support the reform and development of the new GCSE (9-1) Computer Science and Entry Level R354. A keen advocate of the challenges faced within the classroom, Ceredig led on the concept and delivery of teacher delivery packs, which have become one of the flagships for the new GCSE’s success with teachers. Prior to joining OCR, Ceredig had eight years of education and teaching experience across a wide range of schools, including primary, secondary, academies and SEN sectors.
Ceredig has a degree in Computer Science from Liverpool University and post grads from Liverpool Hope and Cambridge Universities. Outside of work, Ceredig is a keen modeller/painter, gamer and all-around geek. From wildlife to war games, his varied hobbies ensure that he is never just ‘sitting down watching the box’.