When the IEEE Computer Society (CS) leadership put out its first call for proposals for the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Fund in late 2021, they weren’t certain of what to expect. As a part of the IEEE Foundation, IEEE CS’ D&I Fund was designed to support projects and programs that positively impact diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the computer engineering and computer science communities, but when the leadership team chose to launch with flexible and open criteria, they left much of the process to the creativity of the community. 

And that plan paid off. The submissions that came in exceeded their expectations in terms of communities addressed, approaches put forth, and the passion for this initiative that came through loud and clear. Grassroots programs from around the globe were structured to support historically marginalized groups.   

Take, for instance, the program from Munehiro Fukuda, professor and chair of the distributed computing laboratory at the University of Washington Bothell, which built an internship experience for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) high-school students to assimilate them to the university research environment and expand their knowledge of parallel and distributed computing. This program resulted in the participating students deepening their ties to computer science and aligning it with their university goals.

Or consider how Vijay Janapa Reddi, associate professor in the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University and Brian Plancher, assistant professor of computer science at Barnard College, Columbia University, combined efforts to develop a workshop for high school teachers and students in the Navajo nation. Utilizing the embedded/tiny machine learning (TinyML) technology that they helped develop, Reddi and Plancher were able to support participants in building a small intelligent device that reacts to sounds, recognizes gestures, and distinguishes faces. Of the 30 Navajo teachers who attended (along with 18 students), nearly all (90%) said they plan to incorporate workshop learnings into their curriculum. 

Then there’s the IEEE CS Kerala Section’s program to increase computer literacy in the state of Kerala, India. The first phase focused on educating women from rural communities on key engineering concepts, and 150 women attended. Next, section leaders brought STEM education and digital literacy to school-aged children, and the final phase focused on a hackathon with diversity and inclusion at the heart of its theme. In all, the program impacted the community in a positive light, bringing more attention to the importance of STEM topics and education. 

In 2023, D&I Fund programs continue to flourish, with this year’s grant awardees focusing on educating, training, and empowering women, the BIPOC community, and others from underrepresented groups on topics as diverse as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, programming, and more. Additional information on the results of these programs will be shared as they become available next year. 

With so much more to come, the D&I Fund has been instrumental in focusing resources and attention on the importance of an inclusive and diverse community. Diversity, equity, and inclusion practices serve as the foundation for productive scientific collaboration and advancement, so please consider supporting continued efforts by contributing to the fund. Every donation helps to ensure the future of the field represents all communities around the globe. 

See more information on IEEE Computer Society Diversity & inclusion initiatives