Awareness Seeds/alx

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Awareness Seeds
Contributors Anne Bartilla, Christian Köppe
Last modification May 17, 2017
Source Bartilla and Köppe (2015)[1]; Bartilla & Köppe (2016)[2]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

There is an imbalance in the CS student population and only a minority of the employees seem to see this as an undesired situation. You want to change this.


People are often not aware of the various advantages of diversity. This makes it hard for them to understand why the prevalent uniformity is undesired.

People only come to action when they really see a problem or are convinced of a new desired situation.

People belonging to the minority have different needs and problems than the majority members. Recognizing these needs and problems does not happen automatically, majority members therefore often are not aware of them.

Having prejudices is normal. However, that doesn’t mean that they are true. Prejudices can be corrected, where becoming aware of them is an important first step.

Mindsets and views are formed by experiences and the environment one is surrounded with. If not exposed to diversity, one is likely to not see the issues related to a not-diverse environment.


Therefore: Plant a variety of seeds that create awareness of why gender diversity in the student population is desired. These seeds should communicate why things have to change and how they can be changed.

A seed is “the beginning of something which continues to develop or grow"[3]. The variety of seeds can cover different areas, such as simply providing sources of information on the topic (see examples section for some references), stimulating thought triggers to look beyond one’s horizon, or specific activities that create a higher awareness of the undesired situation.

This pattern is a specialized version of Plant the Seeds (Plant the Seeds) [4] Implement it by regularly communicating the subject, e.g. in discussions, mails, news-letters etc., but also directly to other people. Start with what you have: communicate about the status quo and why it should be changed. There are enough research results that can be used for this part, so share information over publications on this topic or invitations to specific conferences and events. Create this awareness as part of other professional practices and activities, not as something special. Make sure to not make this a one-off event, but that there’s a Seeding Continuity (Seeding Continuity).

Invite Female CS Role Models (Female CS Role Models) for presentations and guest lectures to change the picture both lecturers and students have of people who are in the workforce of the Computing discipline.

Include male advocates in all your activities and actions where possible, ideally with Quick Supporters (Quick Supporters). Be prepared for discussions with arguments based on research findings.

Let members of the majority gain valuable experiences as minorities with Sharing Minority Experience With Majority Group (Sharing Minority Experience With Majority Group).

Creating awareness of why not having a diverse student population is an undesired situation is an important step towards changing this situation, as people will get new insights, experience their environment differently, and also might start correcting their prejudices.

There is a chance that if this pattern is over-applied, the addressed people will get the feeling that this is the most important issue. This might lead to unnecessary resistance to this subject. This pattern therefore needs to be applied in balance with all other activities and projects that are of relevance for the involved department(s).

In the newsletter of the Informatics and Communication Academy at the HAN University of Applied Sciences, information on events and projects that address the subject of increasing the percentage of female students in computer science are included on a regular base.

Activities such as the Girls Days in Germany[5] and the Netherlands[6] or female-only coding events such as organized by the Rails Girls[7] or the PyLadies[8] are also good awareness seeds.

At Carnegie Mellon, the Women@SCS Advisory Council presented an afternoon forum called “Girls, Technology, and Education" in 2001, which was explicitly open for male teachers and students too. At this forum, issues such as girl-friendly classroom strategies, software game development and others were discussed, and by focusing on girls and technology in education and entertainment several aspects were addressed that certainly supported a higher awareness of the issues related to these aspects.

Some good books with lots of background information that can be used for identifying seeds are Women and Information Technology[9] and Technologies of Inclusion: Gender in the Information Society[10]

The card deck “Notable Women in Computing" offers playing cards with 54 notable women in computing that include their names, affiliations, achievements, and what they are known for.[11] Sharing these cards creates a higher awareness of the fact that women too contributed largely and in various ways to the computing discipline.

You are reading an awareness seed at this very moment! Working on this topic and sharing the results with direct colleagues and other interested parties is certainly a strong seed.


  1. Bartilla, A. & Köppe, C. (2015). Awareness Seeds for more Gender Diversity in Computer Science Education. In Proceedings of the 20th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2015). New York:ACM.
  2. Patlet mentioned in Bartilla, A., & Köppe, C. (2016). Organizational Patterns for Increasing Gender Diversity in Computer Science Education. In Proceedings of the 10th Travelling Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (VikingPLoP 2016). New York:ACM.
  4. Manns, M. L. & Rising, L. (2005). Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas. Addison-Wesley.
  9. Cohoon, J. M. & ASPRAY, W., Eds. (2008). Women and Information Technology: Research on Underrepresentation. MIT Press.
  10. Sörensen, K. H., Faulkner, W., & Rommes, E., Eds. (2011). Technologies of Inclusion. Gender in the Information Society. Tapir Academic Press,Trondheim, Norway.