Creating a Conceptual Framework for Computing Identity Development for Latina Undergraduate Students
Computing and computer technolog)' are part of everyday life for people living in the twenty-first century. Just about everything that touches peoples’ lives—from the cars we drive, to the movies we watch, to the ways businesses and governments interact with us—is embedded in computing machinery. The field is the primary means by which innovation happens and what allows people to advance as a society'. A study by the Pew Research Center (2017) found that four in ten Americans credit computing as the largest contributing factor to improving life in the past 50 years. The same study by the Pew Research Center (2017) found that one in five Americans expect computing to be the largest contributing factor to improving life in the next 50 years. As such, the computing industry is expected to continue growing at a fast pace. Currently, computer science is one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying career paths in the world. It is anticipated that there will be a million more computing jobs than students by the year 2020, which represents a S500 billion national economic opportunity (Lynch, 2016), as well as a personal economic benefit for students, as these careers often offer lucrative salaries.
Although Latina students are entering higher education at greater rates than before, they continue to have disproportionately lower completion rates and career representation in computing than their peers, making up only 2% of all bachelors degrees earned in computing and 5% of all women employed in computing occupations (National Science Foundation, 2016). There has been relatively no growth in computer science bachelors degree attainment for Latina students over the past two decades (National Science Foundation, 2019). Although bachelor’s degree attainment for Latina students has doubled in other STEM disciplines, such as biological sciences (2.68% to 5.94%), physical sciences (1.87% to 3.33%), and math and statistics (1.57% to 3.51%), computer science is the only' discipline that has remained relatively flat (1.75% to 1.79%) (National Science Foundation, 2019).
Ample research has shown that women and racially minoritized people continue to be underrepresented in the computing field (e.g. Sax et al.,
2018; Sax, Zimmerman, Blaney, Toven-Lindsey, & Lehman, 2017; Stout & Blaney, 2018). In fact, while more than half of all bachelors degrees are awarded to women, only 20% of degrees in computing disciplines are earned by women (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017; National Science Foundation, 2017). Research has also shown that women and people of color often face negative stereotypes about their ability to succeed in computing disciplines (Barker, McDowell, & Kalahar, 2009; Cheryan, Plaut, Davies, & Steele, 2009; Margolis, Estrella, Goode, Holme, & Nao, 2008; Varma, 2010). When women encounter events or situations that reinforce stereotypes of computing as a masculine or male-dominated discipline, many of them question their decision to enter into the field (Lewis, Stout, Pollock, Finkelstein, & Ito, 2016). Additional scholarship has shown that women and people of color pull out of computing disciplines because they do not feel like they belong in the field (Barker et al., 2009).
Furthermore, while women across computing have identified issues related to gender stereotypes and socialized beliefs about who can succeed, Latina students, as women of color, may also endure racialized experiences in which they are marginalized not only by their gender but also by their race and ethnicity. Such hostile environments and marginalization can make it difficult for Latina undergraduate students to develop and maintain a computing identity' (Rodriguez & Lehman, 2018). To date, few articles have addressed computing identity', and there are currently no conceptual frameworks that seek to understand computing identity' theory and development for Latinas. Over time, scholars have advocated for greater consideration of such intersectionality (e.g. Crenshaw, 1991), yet it is only recently' that computing scholars have called for integrating such considerations into computing identity' theory. Rodriguez and Lehman’s (2018) paper, for example, advocated for a strong need for an enhanced theoretical framework that explored how computing environments interact with and may potentially create obstacles for computing identity' development. Further, they argued that understanding how college students develop a computing identity and why some students fail to see themselves as computer scientists may be key' to designing effective strategies to recruit more students, particularly more women and underrepresented racially minoritized students, to the computing major and retain them in the field.
This chapter seeks to answer the call for computing identity' theory specifically for Latina undergraduate students. To address the need for better computing identity theory', we propose a multi-part conceptual framework for computing identity' development for Latina undergraduate students. In previous work, researchers have called for a greater intersectional and theoretical understanding of such identity development processes in order to create more equitable computing learning environments (Rodriguez & Lehman, 2018). This chapter builds upon prior work by' contextualizing this call and presenting a framework for identity development specifically for
Latina undergraduate computing students. This framework emphasizes the role that intersectional identities have on elements of computing interest, as well as identity performance and recognition. This framework is informed by prior literature and an ongoing research agenda focused on illuminating how Latina students make meaning of their experiences and develop and sustain computing identities during college. Ultimately, we advocate for utilizing what we know about identity development to support a policy and practice-based holistic approach to understanding how multiple, intersecting identities influence computing identity. We encourage stakeholders to consider how they might encourage resilience through identity development while simultaneously acknowledging the structural oppressions that require Latina students to have to be resilient in computing.