The video from my TED talk is live. I had so much fun working on this over the last year! Give it a watch.
There’s nothing I love more than chatting with women just beginning to learn programing and computer science — a scary, but exciting time. Go forth and prosper, ladies!
- Women have been involved in computer science since the beginning.
- The field has a big gender disparity (obvs).
- Confidence is key. We talked about stereotype threat, attribution theory and impostor syndrome.
- What problems women may name when quitting computer science and how to work around those problem times.
- Future reading, if you want to learn more.
View slides here.
During the Online News Association conference this year in my home state of Georgia, the ONA leadership team asked me to speak as part of a panel by AP-Google scholars. I decided to use my seven-minute pulpit for one massive rant against something that has resulted in complications for me in many sections of my professional life, including job prospects, class scheduling and my research on women in computing for the AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship.
Journalists hate math. It’s a common myth and one that I hear often. I’ve heard it from journalism students when I suggest to them they learn a little coding: “That’s cool for you, but I don’t think I could do that. I’ve always been bad at math.” I’ve heard it from top investigative reporters even: “I leave the number-crunching to others. I went into journalism because I hated math!” This is usually followed by a laugh.
Well, guess what? I’m not laughing, people.
The belief that journalists hate math is part of a larger over-arching belief in education that is cemented early on. It’s part of the “hidden curriculum” — everything you learn in school about culture, society and your own abilities that isn’t part of science, language arts, math or history. We are taught that each of our brains are divided right down the middle. The left side is everything analytical. The right side is everything creative. Also, EVERYONE has a dominant side. This notion of the dominant side will then go on to completely shape how you think about your own abilities, your confidence in your skill set and your career path.
The left side might as well be blue and the right side might as well be pink. Girls are often praised for their creativity or writing ability. Boys are more often praised for their abilities in science and math. As a result, they are more confident, enjoy those subjects more, work harder in those subjects and surpass their peers over many years.
Even if you have high test scores in both math and language arts as a child, a teacher, a parent or a family member will pick a side for you on this impossible to cross fence. And there you go. Might as well write your future in stone at age eight.
Most journalists grew up as “right brain” people. Even if a journalist was fine at math early on, all the confidence disparity and reinforcement pushes that journalist to believe she couldn’t do a calculus problem to save her life by the time she enters college.
If you’d like to see the slides that go along with this rant, they are below.
This left brain, right brain nonsense isn’t good for journalists. Why?
1. Data journalism and code journalism are becoming increasingly important. Because of the myth that journalists are bad at math, incoming journalists are scared out of trying anything new in these areas because of a fear that they will not be successful. How could they? They’ve always been “word people.” Several studies in computer science show confidence is actually a better predictor for if a woman will stay in the major than her ability in computer science. Confidence matters.
2. It hurts our credibility. You wouldn’t want an accountant who claims to be bad at math doing your taxes. In that same vein, why would I trust a profession that widely claims that its members went into said profession because THEY HATE MATH to perform mathematical operations (data journalism) and then use the results of those operations to try and change my belief about something.
3. It adds an untouchable, unicorn-quality to journalists doing both coding and journalism. The barriers make gaining these qualifications more difficult. They also make it very difficult to find a job using both skills because you don’t fit into a coder box or a writer box. There is no unicorn box and usually the more profitable coding skills win.
This right brain, left brain dichotomy doesn’t make sense in journalism or in other contexts. To be good at anything, you need to use analytical skills AND creativity.
In music, a performer must have analytics to play through scales, memorize keys and calculate rhythms. Reading or writing music is analytical. A great performer must also be creative in her movements, in how her bow glides over the strings, in the volume she plays.
The same is true in sports. Football players need to know the drills and the movements of other players, but they also need to be creative and to improvise on the field.
A successful journalist needs both the analytical and the creative too. Traditionally, journalism has been thought of as more of a “right brain” skill. Most journalists would probably admit they enjoyed writing over math in school, but journalism is highly analytical (read: science-y).
Let’s look at the scientific method and the way we report our stories.
Almost the same. And look what else this process resembles:
Journalists are more like the “math folk” than we care to admit.
Conclusion: realize you need both the analytical and the creative to be good at anything, especially journalism, and stop saying you hate math. Seriously, stop it. Stop it. I beg you.
In honor of my upcoming trip to ONA13, which I am PUMPED about!
Going to journalism conferences can provide j-school students with invaluable networking opportunities infused in one skills-packed weekend of journalistic glory. Most students don’t take advantage of conferences though. They are often expensive, far away and you might not want to go alone. Especially for students in small universities, conferences are completely worth it.
Depending on which area of journalism you plan to work in, you may want to check IRE, NICAR, ONA, CMA, SPJ or SND. Here’s a list with some additional conferences. Think national, but also local. There may be local chapters of national organizations that host local conferences. The closer a conference is, the less travel costs!
How will I pay?
First, check for opportunities through the organization hosting the conference to attend for free. Many conference organizations offer free or discounted registration for students. Some even offer travel support. You may be able to apply for specific scholarships through the organization to attend or it may have a program for students to attend and report on the conference such as the ONA Student Newsroom.
Ask around at your school about possible funding. Talk to older students, professors and administrators. There may be money available to support students in academic-related travel.
Going to a conference means you can attend sessions about what’s going on in the industry and learn new skills that you can take back to your newspaper. Ask your boss or adviser if there is any money to help with expenses if you are willing to bring back the knowledge from the conference and teach other students.
Go with friends
If you can find journalism buddies to go along with you, you’ll be able to pile into a car and then pile into a hotel room, which means decreasing travel costs. Even if you aren’t able to find a friend to go with, many organizations offer forums for finding roommates to split hotel costs.
How should I prepare?
Ahead of the conference, update your resume and bring copies to hand out. Update your social media presences. Buy business cards using a site like MOO.com. Plan out what you’re going to wear. Casual, but put together is a good look. For women, skinny jeans and a blazer. For men, jeans and a button-up will usually do the trick.
Use the conference website to plan out what sessions you want to attend ahead of time. If two sessions you want to attend are happening at the same time, mark that. You can always head to the other if the first doesn’t turn out to be as good as it sounded.
Follow conference hashtags, check the list of attendees (if one is provided) and Google the speakers. Are there people attending who work at organizations you may want to work or intern for? Make sure you meet them and exchange cards. It’s OK to say “I recognize you from your Twitter avatar.”
What happens when I get there?
The most important thing: don’t be shy! Talk to people. Exchange cards. Don’t stop talking to people. It can be intimidating if you have never networked before but it is absolutely necessary. For the sessions you attend, take notes and earn karma points by putting your notes in a public Google Doc and tweeting out the link with the conference hashtag. Stay active on Twitter throughout the conference and don’t hesitate to reply to or retweet other conference attendees. Don’t let the conference end with the last sessions either. Figure out where people are hanging out for dinner or drinks and go there. Keep it classy, though.
What should I do when I get back?
A couple of days after the conference, send an email to everyone you exchanged cards with. It’s easier if you write notes on the cards explaining what you talked about or had in common so you can reference it later. If you made a connection with that person, follow them on Twitter or connect with them on Linkedin. Write a wrap-up of what you learned from attending the conference and tweet it out using the conference hashtag. Review your notes and check out any tools you heard about at the conference that you may want to use in the future.
Happy conferencing! Also, remember that for conferences you can’t attend, you can get a lot of the same skill benefits by following along on Twitter. Presenters will often tweet links to their presentations and you may be able to find people’s notes or live tweets.
As I’m starting an Online News Association chapter at UGA, I’m starting to realize that it is really difficult to like Twitter if you don’t follow the right people. I love Twitter because it’s a personalized news source of content I am interested in. Maybe you don’t know who to follow though…
Here are 70 suggestions from my Twitter account. Follow these people for news on online journalism. I’ll keep adding to it as I realize great people I missed. Comment below and give me some suggestions…
- @IRE_NICAR, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. account
- @Romenesko, Journalism news including Morning Report
- @NiemanLab, Articles all about journalism’s future
- @journalismnews, Tips and opportunities for journos
- @journalismbuzz, Journo news
- @knightfoundation, Gives grants for journalism’s future
- @ONA, Online News Association
- @sunfoundation, Government transparency
- @splc, Student Press Law Center
- @spj_tweets, Society of Professional Journalists
- @inn, Investigative News Network
- @poynter, journo news
- @EricHolthaus, Contributing meteorologist for WSJ
- @amichel, Open Editor, Guardian US. Co-founder of SparkCamp.
- @EmilyEggleston, AP-Google Scholar
- @acarvin, Senior strategist at NPR
- @fieldproducer, Social media editor at WSJ
- @cyperjournalist, Previous ONA president, new media exec.
- @dankennedy_nu, Journalism prof at Northwestern.
- @rozzy, Digital media at NBC.
- @brizzyc, J-school professor (U. of Memphis)
- Everyone that works at @buzzfeed (see next four)
- @sal19, Reporter for @LaTimesTech
- @webjournalist, Co-founder of #wjchat and ONA board member
- @thematthewkeys, Deputy social media editor at Reuters
- @markknoller, Live tweeting pro
- @ckanal, HuffPost senior editor
- @kzhu91, Google-AP scholar
- @CraigSilverman, Spundge/Poynter
- @eyeseast, Creator Homicide Watch
- @danroth, Linkedin exec
- @chanders, CUNY, j-school professor
- @Jeffconderman, digital media fellow, Poynter
- @anjalimullany, ONA, social media editor Fast Company
- @girlswhocode, Rad not-for-profit
- @kickstarter, Crowd-sourced funding
- @codeforamerica, Like Teach For America, but code
- @codeacademy, Free coding learning website
- @quartznews, New type of news website known for simple design
- @moneyries, Senior editor, @thedailybeast
- @Emilybell, Director Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia
- @MeredithA, Managing editor for CNN Digital
- @RachelDePompa, Investigative reporter for NBC12
- @Antderosa, Social media editor Reuters
Dear Non-ONA readers: This is my application for the AP-Google scholarship — a $20,000 grant with the Online News Association helping students accomplish projects on the intersection of computer science and journalism. Although this is different than the normal lessons on this website, it belongs here and not hidden on a separate website or in a Google Doc somewhere. Even if I don’t have the opportunity to address these issues with this grant, they won’t go away and we should all be aware. Also, in the words of Roland Barthes,
To hide a passion totally (or even to hide, more simply, its excess) is inconceivable: not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is in essence made to be seen. So I invite you to see, to think and to discuss women’s role in the future of our industry.
You are a female journalism student at the University of Georgia
You know the Internet is changing news. You know digital skills will help you secure a job, but you’ve always favored words over numbers.
You are required to pick an additional major or minor. What do you pick?
Number of UGA computer science and journalism undergraduate students out of 26,000: 1.
At UGA, CS was the seventh most popular major for male students in 2012. For female students, it was 88th.
As a coder journalist, does this surprise you?
It doesn’t surprise female CS students at UGA:
“Where I grew up, if you get to 20 without having a kid, you’re doing pretty well. If I changed my major then, my dad wouldn’t have agreed. It wouldn’t have been perceived as being girly.”
“I’ve gotten: ‘Is it harder to program when you’re on your period?’ and ‘There’s girls on the Internet?’”
“The professor would put stupid jokes on his slides. For a slide of a cash controller, he put a picture of a bride. He was just really kind of sexist, this old white dude. It was completely off his radar. I brought it up to another professor, but she didn’t do anything.”
It’s time to build a bridge, a people bridge.
My project (pronounced journo-chicks) will encourage female journalism students to cross into CS and provide a community of awareness and resources for those standing on the bridge between two worlds — one female-dominated, one male-dominated. With this scholarship, I will start a pilot program to examine solutions to perceived overlap that make females shy away from CS. Using the web and social media, the portable results of the program could be implemented in other communities. Because most programmers begin before college — 98 percent of Google engineers do— journochiCS will raise awareness in colleges, high schools and middle schools.
While the journalism community praises its small group of coder journalists, few discuss the STEM diversity problems creeping into a team destined to help decide journalism’s fate. JournochiCS is different from other groups working to increase female STEM participation, such as Girls Who Code, because it places females in resources already available in their schools while providing a supportive community based on awareness, discussion and mentoring. The project will concentrate on forming a people bridge between the two worlds.
UGA, the pilot location, is attended overwhelming by Southern students. Many, myself included, grew up in rural or suburban areas with more traditional gender roles, which contribute to the quotes above. UGA’s Grady College is trailing behind j-school leaders with technology integration, making crosses between the two disciplines especially difficult. This situation mirrors other mid-tier j-schools.
Solving these problems is essential to increasing coder journalists and female coders. I am passionate this project can deliver that “I’m home” comfort I felt only upon attending ONA12 to other students who struggle to stay steady on a wobbling bridge at their own schools.