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Communications of the ACM

Broadening participation

Data Trends on Minorities and People with Disabilities in Computing

raised hands


Seeking a comprehensive view of minority student demographics to determine what programs and policies are needed to promote diversity.

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Ben Haley

Modeling minorities based on Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans seems like an incomplete model. How do Asian and Indian minorities compare? Are those minorities overrepresented?

CACM Administrator

The following letter was published in the Letters to the Editor of the March 2012 CACM (
--CACM Administrator

Addressing the lack of diversity in computer science, the Viewpoint "Data Trends on Minorities and People with Disabilities in Computing" (Dec. 2011) by Valerie Taylor and Richard Ladner seemed to have been based solely on the belief that diversity is good per se. However, it offered no specific evidence as to why diversity, however defined, is either essential or desirable.

I accept that there should be equal opportunity in all fields and that such a goal is a special challenge for a field as intellectually demanding as computer science. However, given that the authors did not make this point directly, what exactly does diversity have to do with competence in computing? Moreover, without some detailed discussion of the need or desirability of diversity in computer science, it is unlikely that specific policies and programs needed to attract a variety of interested people can be formulated.

It is at least a moral obligation for a profession to ensure it imposes no unjustifiable barriers to entry, but only showing that a situation exists is far from addressing it.

John C. Bauer
Manotick, Ontario, Canada



In the inaugural Broadening Participation Viewpoint "Opening Remarks" (Dec. 2009), the author Ladner outlined three reasons for broadening participation numbers, social justice, and quality supporting them with the argument that diverse teams are more likely to produce quality products than those from the same background. Competence is no doubt a prerequisite for doing anything well, but diversity and competence combined is what companies seek to enhance their bottom lines.

Valerie Taylor
College Station, TX

Richard Ladner

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