A. The "pipeline" problem
Last summer (2014) as a result of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's fifteen year campaign to induce Silicon Valley's leading corporations to disclose demographic data about their staffs, first Google, then Yahoo!, Facebook, Linkedin, and many of the other powerhouses in the Valley finally published data that confirmed what everybody already knew ==> Less than five percent of their employees were Black.
I was subsequently disappointed, but not surprised when these same companies tried to "explain" their lack of diversity by the lower number of Black students of Computer Science programs in the "pipeline" compared to the number of White or Asian American students. Given the persistence of the Digital Divide, how could things be otherwise?
But none of these companies published data as to what percent of their current mostly White and Asian American, mostly male employees held Computer Science degrees. Everybody knows that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college after a year or so. Indeed, the self-serving myth of meritocracy perpetuated by the Valley's moguls up until the publication of their un-diversity reports was that the best companies were looking for raw, creative talent -- regardless of academic pedigree. Are they really turning away first rate software engineers who lack Computer Science degrees? ... or just highly talented black and Latino engineers who lack these credentials?? ... or just highly talented female engineers who lack these credentials???
Question: Where should the Valley's employers expect to find the most black graduates of Computer Science programs?
Answer: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Why? Because HBCUs are still the most productive sources of STEM graduates at the bachelors degree level; and HBCUs are also the most productive source of black undergraduates who subsequently receive doctoral degrees in STEM fields. I refer the reader to two notes previously published on this blog:
B. Directories of programs at HBCUs
Unfortunately, things were not as straight-forward as I had hoped. Discussions with staff at the IPEDS Data Center provided the following insights:
- IPEDS classifies academic departments based on descriptions of the departments that were on forms provided to IPEDS by colleges and universities
- Many HBCUs described their CS programs as "Computer Science" ... but others provided other descriptions that IPEDS classified as "Computer and Information Sciences"
- Some HBCUs provided descriptions of their departments that did not fit into either of these categories, e.g., Howard University.
- The vast majority of the HBCU programs in the IPEDS "Computer and Information Sciences" category conferred "Computer Science" degrees. In other words, the names of departments often differed from the names of the degrees they conferred.
- Furthermore, the vast majority of the HBCUs in the IPEDS "Computer and Information Sciences" category actually called themselves "Computer Science" departments, rather than "Computer and Information Sciences" departments.
- IPEDS graduation data about all HBCUS that IPEDS classified as "Computer Science"
- IPEDS graduation data about all HBCUs that IPEDS classified as "Computer And Information Sciences" programs if and only if the HBCU Websites call their degrees "Computer Science" degrees.
- HBCUs that fall into categories other than the first two IPEDS categories if and only if the Websites of these other HBCUs call their degrees "Computer Science" degrees. IPEDS data will only be included when the "other" IPEDS categories can be easily identified. Example -- IPEDS placed Howard University's "Department of Systems and Computer Science" into a "Computer Systems Analysis/Analyst" category.