Since its inception, NCWIT has recognized that increasing women’s participation in information technology requires a strong presence among legislators and policy-makers in Washington, D.C. NCWIT has been working with several organizations including the ACM and CRA, as well as The Stern Group, an international advisory firm run by The Honorable Paula Stern, to establish a platform in D.C. circles and keep people apprised of the issues surrounding diversity and innovation. The Stern Group frequently represents NCWIT at important events, attends meetings on behalf of NCWIT, accompanies Lucy when she visits to meet with people, and helps to promote understanding of NCWIT’s mission among key policy-makers.
On November 14, 2007, representatives from The Stern Group attended a kick-off ceremony at the Pentagon for the Military Spouse Career Initiative. The Department of Labor and the Department of Defense co-sponsor this initiative. NCWIT was invited to attend by Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy), Leslye A. Arsht. Lucy had met with Ms. Arsht in June 2007 to discuss how her office and NCWIT might work together. The kick-off to this initiative is exciting for NCWIT in that one of its focus areas is information technology. Military spouses often are women who frequently move with their husbands and require portable careers. NCWIT feels this issue is a win-win: it encourages more women into IT fields, and helps military spouses obtain training in a career that is versatile.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, and Representatives of Military Spouses Programs. Photo from http://www.defenselink.mil/homepagephotos/homepagephotos.aspx.
Since the kick-off, NCWIT has been working with the Colorado Department of Labor to institute a state-based pilot, while keeping in touch with staff at the Department of Defense to move the initiative forward in Washington. You can find more on the initiative at the Department of Labor’s website.
The military spouses initiative builds on a long-held NCWIT idea for workforce development: link returning members of the military who possess IT training with opportunities to further their training and education, so that they can continue to contribute their IT skills in the civilian workforce. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) are working to incorporate IT into legislation they have been drafting. (Read our June 12 blog for more information on Senator Clinton’s efforts). On August 8, 2007, the House and Senate released their conference report on the American Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (or, more simply, the America COMPETES Act). A version of this bill previously had been passed by both Congressional bodies, which the Senators and members of Congress worked into one bill. Included was a first step towards NCWIT’s idea: encouraging returning members of the military and underrepresented minorities to pursue teaching degrees in STEM disciplines.
Speaking of Senators, a recent Businessweek article asked the leading Presidential contenders about their plans for U.S. Innovation. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) said that he would “[i]ncrease science and engineering grads and minorities and women in science and technology; [and] expand public school offerings in science, technology, engineering, and math.” Similarly, Senator Clinton said she would “[t]riple the number of National Science Foundation fellowships and increase the size of each by 33%; [and] provide government financial support to encourage women and minorities to study math, science, and engineering.” Also, Senator McCain said he would “provide incentives for summer mentoring programs for high school and college math, science, technology, and engineering students” and “train science and math teachers.” NCWIT is excited that our message pervades the candidates’ national agendas.
As follow up to the magazine article, NCWIT recently sent a letter to all the presidential candidates, informing them of the statistics on diversity and the IT workforce and the need to increase women’s participation. We’re hoping that they will incorporate NCWIT’s perspective into their plans for U.S. innovation and competitiveness as they continue their campaigns.
On October 18, 2007, the House Diversity and Innovation Caucus, in conjunction with the Society for Women Engineers (SWE), held an event entitled “The Leaky Science and Engineering Pipeline: How Can We Retain More Women in Academia and Industry?” Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) launched the House Diversity and Innovation Caucus in June, 2007. Its mission is to help generate policy ideas to address the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the STEM fields. NCWIT co-sponsored the event and it is partially to our credit that the Caucus was formed! Lucy had first suggested the idea to a staff member of Congressman Reyes’ office at NCWIT’s Innovation and the Importance of Diversity Town Hall in May 2006. A year later, the Caucus has 48 Congressional members and continues to grow.
About the National Center for Women & Information Technology
&Information Technology. We are a coalition of over 100 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women’s participation in information technology (IT). We believe that inspiring more women to choose careers in IT will influence American innovation, competitiveness, and workforce sustainability. We leverage the work of organizations in K-12, higher education, and the workforce through a national infrastructure of alliances, workshops, research, publications, and evaluation. Find out more at www.ncwit.org.