Reminiscing on the 2024 NCWIT Summit

On May 20-22, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) hosted the 2024 NCWIT Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Loews Kansas City Hotel. It was wonderful to convene with attendees in person as well as online.

Reflecting on the 2024 NCWIT Summit 

Participants, guests, the Aspirations in Computing (AiC) Community, and members from across NCWIT alliances once again convened for the annual NCWIT Summit — the world’s largest annual convening of leaders focused on significantly improving diversity and equity in computing:

This year, change-leading attendees witnessed inspiring plenaries, engaged in interactive breakout sessions and workshops — and were also welcomed with a gift of local BBQ sauce or a dry rub seasoning!  It was Kansas City, after all!

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Although the Summit was only a short few days, the energy and inspiration was plenty as participants continued to listen, learn, and work toward dismantling dominant ideologies to build the future of tech. Find videos from the Joanne McGrath Cohoon Memorial Plenary stage online now in the NCWIT Media Hub:

Highlights From Day One

What better way to begin the NCWIT Summit than to open by addressing “The Professional Culture of STEM: Challenges and Possibilities” with Erin Cech, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Michigan, an NCWIT Higher Ed Alliance member institution.

“The things that are actually required of success and the things that are most valued as markers of competence and excellence in a field is a slippage that allows for bias to creep in." - Erin Cech, PhD

Drawing from several National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded studies and her recent book, Misconceiving Merit, she discussed three cultural ideologies—the Schema of Scientific Excellence, Depoliticization, and the Meritocratic Ideology— that produce STEM inequalities and how to interrupt them to cultivate inclusion. NCWIT was chartered by the NSF in 2004.

If you missed her keynote or would like to listen again, you can watch the full video in the NCWIT Media Hub here. An edited transcript is coming soon. To learn more, use the following resources to take action:

Afterwards, alliance teams met before a light reception in the evening to toast to a wonderful first day.

This was also the first year the AiC Story Ambassadors — both the inaugural class and newly appointed 2024 cohort — assembled all together in-person. Follow @NCWITAIC and the #AiCcommunity on social media — Instagram | Facebook | Twitter to learn more about them and their inspiring stories!

Highlights from Day Two

The energy from the first day carried well into Tuesday as attendees were greeted with a lively NCWIT Conversation for Change in the morning. The multi-generational panel focused on “Working Toward a More Inclusive Future for Tech,” and was moderated by engineer and futurist Bryndan D. Moore. Together, the group shared an array of perspectives on how to harness tech’s potential for a more just and innovative future. 

Featured panelists:

“Opportunity and exposure creates a new world!” - Diya Wynn

Timely questions about creating participatory access for young people, navigating ethical dilemmas in tech, and how successful technologists can radically change our world within the next 25 years were answered throughout the engaging discussion. 

If you missed the panel or would like to listen again, you can watch the full video in the NCWIT Media Hub here. An edited transcript is coming soon. View and learn from the panelists’ work below:

Afterward and through the afternoon, attendees had a variety of enlightening breakout sessions to select from. These enriching few hours help ensure the annual Summit is a continued platform for meaningful learning, dialogue, and understanding. Whether participants learned how to cultivate connections to bridge cultural differences in classrooms, mentorship, and sponsorship, or developed a toolkit for optimal team member selection for projects, there was something for everyone’s individual interests. 

The non-repeating mini-plenary, “Liberatory Futures for Computing” — held on the Joanne McGrath Cohoon Memorial Plenary stage — was presented by Amy Ko, PhD, Professor at the University of Washington Information School, and facilitated on-site by NCWIT Director of Research, Wendy DuBow. This session explored the two futures of technology: one in which the hegemony continues to empower the powerful or a hopeful path of reimagined power for the powerless.

I hope for a future in which people recognize that technology is not the point; people and community are, and technology is just a tool to enrich our collective lives. - Amy Ko, PhD

A popular session, “Beyond Tech Skills, Supporting First-Generation Professionals as They Navigate Their Career” was led by Digital NEST professionals as they shared how they’re bridging the gap between underserved California youth and the tech-success pipeline. Learn how you can foster a more diverse and sustainable tech workforce by watching the full workshop here.

Following the workshops and a snack break, attendees reconvened in the mainstage to end the day with a transformative discussion that blended film and a conversation. “Frames of Understanding: A Conversation on the History and Science of Race” explored how race and science shaped our social norms. This interactive, offline NCWIT Conversation for Change offered an opportunity to connect with others through a real-time exchange of ideas with Sharmaine Jackson, Director of Racial Equity at NCWIT.

NCWIT remains committed to racial equity, a core component of our mission to foster an inclusive computing culture. View an array of videos on race and intersectionality here as well as the Racial Equity statement here.

Higher Ed Recognition Recipients

The last day of the Summit began by recognizing and awarding two outstanding change-leaders for their work, advocacy, and mentorship to women and historically marginalized students in computing.

NCWIT was honored to name Nikki Washington, PhD, recipient of the 2024 Joanne McGrath Cohoon Service Award, which honors distinguished faculty or staff and their significant contributions in advancing DEI for gender diverse students in postsecondary computing programs.

“We don’t need allies, we need co-conspirators” - Nikki Washington, PhD

Dr. Nicki Washington is globally well-known for her impactful work in computer science, CS education research, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is the founder of the Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education (AiiCE) and the Director of the Identity in Computing Lab and the Cue Family Professor of the Practice of Computer Science and Professor of the Practice in the Program of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences at Duke University. View the recording of her speaking on the plenary stage here.

Klara Nahrstedt, PhD, is the recipient of the 2024 Harrold Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award, which honors mentors with a demonstrated commitment to research graduate mentoring and advocacy for the recruitment, encouragement, and promotion of women and minorities in computing.

“I’m most proud of my students; I enjoy how they grow even when they leave” - Klara Nahrstedt, PhD

Inspirational Closing Plenary with 1964 Gold Medalist Billy Mills

The final plenary at the NCWIT Summit left the crowd teary-eyed as Billy Mills, also known as Tamokoce Te’Hila, shared his triumphant life path from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to the historic 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. On stage, he emphasized the importance of embracing unity through diversity throughout his journey.

“It takes a dream to heal broken wings. Find a dream!” - Billy Mills

Considered one of the greatest sports moments of all time, his 10,000M Gold Medal victory inspired viewers worldwide and has yet to be replicated by an American. Since his win, Billy has dedicated his life to service, inspiring and helping Indigenous people nationwide. He’s the co-founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, which strengthens Native communities and builds up the next generation of Native youth, as well as recent author of Wings of an Eagle: The Gold Medal Dreams of Billy Mills which has arrived just in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

If you missed the closing keynote or would like to listen again, you can watch the full video in the NCWIT Media Hub here. An edited transcript is coming soon.

NCWIT is grateful for everyone who joined us this year in Kansas City! We hope you found all the speakers, sessions, and awardees as inspirational as we did. Want to attend the 2025 NCWIT Summit? Follow us on social media and register for one of our monthly newsletters to receive early registration details!

Thanks again to our 2024 NCWIT Summit sponsors – PNC and SP Vision — for making this event possible. If you’re interested in sponsoring next year’s event, email: [email protected].

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