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Communications of the ACM


Global Perspectives of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

joined hands of various colors encircling the globe, illustration

Credit: MarinaNy

For this viewpoint, several ACM luminaries who have lived on multiple continents briefly discuss how diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) varies in their experience. Specifically, based on the life experiences of these six people, we see examples of how potentially marginalized communities—based possibly on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, cultural background, religion, age, or other aspects—can be similar and how they can vary between different parts of the world.
    —David A. Patterson

Luiz Andre Barroso (North America and South America, Eckert-Mauchly Award recipient). I grew up in Brazil, where I did my undergraduate in electrical engineering in the 1980s, as at that time undergraduate programs in computer sciences were still maturing. My own undergraduate EE class had approximately the same number of male and female students, which I believe was an anomaly for engineering classes at that time. The gender diversity numbers in computing today are not nearly as healthy. In 2018, women made up 60% of all bachelor degrees in Brazil, but when we narrow it down to STEM areas that number drops to only 14%. For computing in particular, a 2020 report by a Brazilian computing industry association (Brasscom) estimates women make up only 20% of the professionals in R&D and engineering. My impression is that Brazil is faring no better than the U.S. when it comes to increasing the representation of women in computing, despite several recent efforts to connect girls with computer science. It is difficult to compare Brazil with the U.S. when it comes to representation along racial groups because of differences on how people identify themselves in the two countries. For example, my understanding is that most Brazilians who describe themselves as brown (the term used in Brazil's census is "pardo") would be considered black in the U.S. I went to school with extremely few dark-skinned colleagues. Quotas in universities for students from underprivileged backgrounds and for black students in particular have only been in place for about a decade, and while they could have a significant impact in diversity, the opposition to such quotas systems remains fierce and therefore their staying power is yet unclear.


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