Does The NASA CIO Endorse Or Oppose Gender Bias? Answer: Both (Update)

Meet NASA Datanauts: 2016 Class, OpenNASA

"In 2014, the Open Innovation team noticed a disparity in the ratio of International Space Apps Challenge participants -- roughly 80% men to 20% women. We embarked on a quest to better understand how to attract more women and girls to data by conducting a year-long study, which included a literature review followed by dozens of interviews with leading women's organizations in the data, tech, and startup communities. ... Based on what we learned, we created two new initiatives to signal a welcome environment for women: Space Apps Data Bootcamp, as a one-day pre-event to get introduced to data and code before the annual hackathon; and NASA Datanauts, as a year-old engagement to learn and practice data science skills. The all-female 2015 Founding Class of Datanauts, served two important functions -- to signal NASA is a welcome environment, and to help us understand their communities and how to design data engagements that attract more women and newcomers to NASA data and the new field of data science."

Keith's 12 July note: I totally get the issues that the NASA CIO's Open Innovation Team recognized and heartily applaud their decision to address them. But what I simply do not understand how they can discriminate on the basis of gender so as to only allow females to participate in the 2015 Founding Class of Datanauts. Males apparently were not offered an equal opportunity to participate in this government program. I am sure we all know that a lot of the issues facing women being studied by NASA CIO are faced by males too. I am certain that there are hundreds of rules and laws that are supposed to prevent such blatant discrimination. To be clear the new class (2016) has males in it but a quick unscientific survey of first names and pronouns makes it look like only 6 out of 49 are males. I am sure I counted/guessed wrong. I have sent an email to Beth Beck and NASA CIO Renee Wynn asking "Can you please explain to me how NASA, a government agency, could legally discriminiate against males in the selection of its "all-female 2015 Founding Class of Datanauts"?". The NASA CIO office never responds to media inquiries - so I do not expect them to start responding now.

Keith's 13 July update: I just got the following from Karen Northon at NASA PAO. She recycled/rewrote stuff from the Open NASA website, but never answered my question. Specifically, she took the title of my post and said "NASA does not endorse or oppose gender bias, but rather works to open doors to all newcomers to data science." Huh? They are saying that the agency has no position for- or against gender bias? Really? What set of government regulations is NASA following? So I asked again "Your first group of datanauts in 2015 was 100% female - your webpage makes pointed, overt mention of that fact. How is it legal for NASA, a federal government agency, to deliberately limit participation in a government-funded educational activity to members of only one gender?"

NASA PAO's full response:

"In an effort to increase the number of women who engage with NASA data at events like Space Apps, which is generally 80% men and 20% women, we conducted research with leading organizations in the data, tech, and startup communities, as well as looking into scholarly literature on the subject of women and computer science fields.

We took away a few key points. Women are looking for collaborative welcoming environments and look for signals that they would fit in (such as seeing women in leadership, on the governing boards, as speakers, etc.). They also want early access to skill-building and teaming opportunities before events. Based on this feedback we added two initiatives to our open data efforts. They included the one-day Data Bootcamp to introduce newcomers to data and data science; and NASA Datanauts, as a year-long engagement to learn and practice coding and data science skills. In addition, we listed a range of skill sets, such as artist, designer, entrepreneur, storyteller, as skill sets of value to open data initiatives to supplement the high ratio of developers already engaging; and welcomed beginners to join the more advanced coders who traditionally participate in Space Apps.

The Datanauts program is open to everyone which includes all skills and coding levels of expertise. The first class included women leaders in the coding and data tech community to send the signal that NASA data is a welcoming environment. We expect future classes to shift along the lines of traditional ratios that are heavily influenced by males. The founding class will always signal for women to see themselves as potential applicants.

NASA does not endorse or oppose gender bias, but rather works to open doors to all newcomers to data science. According to research, more intentional program design is required to create an environment that welcomes different types of skills and experiences to our open data initiatives. This includes women, minorities, artists, writers, and other non-traditional communities who will bring new insights to data analysis and innovative problem-solving."

And just in case some of you are thinking that I am pushing some sort of male agenda:

- More Inbred Space Advocate Choir Practice, earlier post
- Lack of Diversity Among National Space Society Award Nominees, earlier post
- @NASAWatch 3 Dec 2014 @AsteroidDay Only 10 of 101 signers are female. Even fewer are persons of color. Aren't we all at risk from impacts?, earlier post
- "New" Space: For Middle Age Males Only?, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on July 13, 2016 10:07 AM.

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