Summer 2006

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NCWIT Newsletter – Summer 2006

In This Issue

 

Greetings from Boulder
Hello everyone! As we write this, NCWIT is less than a month away from moving into our new home at the ATLAS Center, a technology and learning facility at the heart of the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) campus. ATLAS – the Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society — is a campus-wide institute that integrates information technology with multidisciplinary curricular, research and outreach programs. ATLAS’ vision is to provide information technology for all students, particularly those who are not in technology fields, and those in diverse communities at CU and K-12 schools. We look forward to operating out of such elegant, cutting-edge digs, and hope you’ll come by and visit us when you’re in Boulder.

NCWIT May Meetings Wrap-up
NCWIT held its first-ever Innovation and Diversity Town Hall, co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), at the National Academy of Sciences on May 17, 2006. Participants and speakers ranged from the federal government, industry, and think-tanks to non-profits and academia, and nearly all cited the lack of diversity in information technology (IT) as a major competitive and creative problem for our country. Although U.S. Department of Labor projections estimate that there will be one million new jobs in IT by 2014, sharp declines in undergraduate computing and information sciences enrollment mean that we will graduate only half of the qualified candidates we need to fill these jobs.

Unfortunately, the lack of diversity in the IT workforce isn’t just a matter of filling jobs: we also are blunting a key national differentiator if we don’t fully involve our diverse population in the invention of new technology. There is a strong return on investment to companies that diversify their IT workforce, including better decision-making, higher return to shareholders, and technological design more applicable to a wide range of customer needs. And yet, ironically, IT professionals are still culled from a very narrow segment of our population.

Why should we care about IT? Because IT is the language and the toolbox of our modern, information-age lives. IT drives our economic growth, functions as the backbone for almost every American industry (not to mention the federal government and national security), and fosters advances in nearly every sector of the American economy. If almost all of us use or rely on IT for such critical things as our health, safety, work, entertainment, communication, and research, then why are so few of us creating IT?

Microsoft Research Senior Vice President and NCWIT Executive Advisory Council member Rick Rashid opened the Town Hall by hailing innovation as the key driver of the U.S. economy, and calling for more students to pursue a career in the innovative world of information technology. The Town Hall also featured remarks by Motorola Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior; U.S. Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO); National Academy of Engineering President, Dr. William A. Wulf; National Science Foundation (NSF) Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Kathie L. Olsen; NSF Broadening Participation in Computing Program Director, Jan Cuny; Computing Research Association (CRA) Director of Government Affairs, Peter Harsha; and representatives from the Executive Branch and Congress.

At the NCWIT reception following the Town Hall, U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) cited the need to reverse “long historic discrimination in the area of gender” saying that locking women out of information technology is “like having one hand tied behind our competitive backs.” He mentioned his own daughters while hailing the importance of opening doors for members of underrepresented groups to participate in whatever field they choose.

Catalyst President Ilene H. Lang also spoke at the reception, citing her organization’s recent research on women in leadership positions. Catalyst is an active member of NCWIT’s Workforce Alliance, which leads efforts in corporate institutional reform and helps NCWIT gauge its success in achieving workforce gender parity. Lang said that the number of Fortune 500 company boards with 25 percent or more women has increased almost six-fold — from 11 in 1995 to 64 in 2005. Yet women still hold only 14.7 percent of all Fortune 500 board seats, and 11 percent of Fortune 500 companies still have no women board members.

The dialogue at the Town Hall covered much ground, with conversations ranging from passionate appeals for reform to specific suggestions and solutions. At its close, it was clear that everyone present agreed on one thing: we need to take action, and we need to do it now.

We need to form alliances that include industry representatives, public school teachers, university faculty and administrators and others who can be change agents. We need to focus on institutional reform, based on practices that have been proven to be effective by solid research. We need to ensure that computer science is taught in high schools across the country. We need to reform curriculum at K-12 and higher education levels. We need to improve the public image of computing so that young people can see that it is not a narrow technical field only for white male hackers, but is socially valuable work that can be a good career choice for a diverse cross-section of America. In short, we need to broaden the appeal of information technology to people who previously may have considered themselves merely its consumers and not its creators.

Diversity is an opportunity, not an obstacle. There are many avenues to increase the number of women and minorities participating in every aspect of information technology, if we just work together. As a society, we need to recognize and mobilize: recognize that this is an issue we must address, and mobilize for rapid change.

NCWIT on Capitol Hill
NCWIT was invited by the Computing Research Association (CRA) to participate in Science@Work — the 12th Annual Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Exhibition and Reception on Capitol Hill — on June 7, 2006. This annual event is intended to give Congressional members and staffers a glimpse of the important work being conducted as a direct result of funding Congress provides to the National Science Foundation (NSF). NCWIT chose to highlight the work of coalition members in the areas of curricular reform (computational media curriculum at Georgia Tech) and outreach (a recruiting video created by the University of Washington). This year the event attracted a mix of young scientists from across the country, and it was encouraging to walk around and see the number of NSF-funded projects focused on education and underrepresented minorities. We owe special thanks to CRA’s Peter Harsha for his company and his support!

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, October 4-7, 2006
Registration is now open for 6th Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, October 4-7, 2006, in San Diego, California. Sponsored by our partner, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, the Grace Hopper Celebration is the leading conference for women in the field of computer science. It provides a forum to inspire, educate, encourage and create awareness of opportunities for women in the field of computing while celebrating the considerable achievement of women in the field. This year’s theme, “Making Waves,” emphasizes the expanding circles of influence and impact women have on the computing and technology fields. Register by August 9th to receive the early registration rates.

To register for the conference, or to find out more, visit www.gracehopper.org.

NCWIT 2nd Annual Practices Workshop
Mark your calendars: NCWIT’s 2nd annual Practices Workshop and bi-annual Alliance Meetings will take place November 15-16, 2006 at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. This practices workshop will be the first to include results from NCWIT pipeline research programs to date; and as with our first practices workshop at Carnegie Mellon, we’ll offer tools for taking these promising practices, identified and vetted by NCWIT social scientists, and applying them at one’s home institution. Our gathering at Georgia Tech in November also will mark the first meeting of all four NCWIT Alliances – the Academic Alliance, Workforce Alliance, Social Science Advisory Board, and K-12 Alliance.

Future Planning – Upcoming NCWIT Meetings
May 15-16, 2007: Workshop on the Image of IT and Alliance Meetings
ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder

November 6-7, 2007: Effective Practices Workshop and Alliance Meetings
Microsoft Campus, Redmond Washington, and the University of Washington

Revolutionizing the Face of Technology: the Image of IT
NCWIT has joined a consortium of distinguished computing corporations and organizations, including HP, Microsoft, Intel, the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the Computing Research Association (CRA), and the Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society (ATLAS) Institute, working to improve the image of information technology. This Task Force on the Image of IT has agreed to fund a fulltime staff position focused on creating and implementing solutions to address the unrealistic image of IT and how we can attract more talent to the field.

IT’s image problem is apparent in the declining number of students, especially from underrepresented groups, who are choosing to enter IT; in the perceptions of young Americans, who still view IT as a field with little social or emotional appeal and as the domain of geeky white males; and in the number of students – as well as parents and advisors who influence them – who believe that offshoring and the dot-com bust have made IT a field with little career value.

Possible solutions this position will implement include advocating for multi-disciplinary, exciting, new kinds of courses that draw students to IT; increasing opportunities for non-traditional paths through IT undergraduate education; and improving public understanding of information technology through awareness campaigns, press campaigns, outreach programs, and debunking of stereotypes. NCWIT’s May 2007 Meetings in Boulder, Colorado, will feature a day-long workshop focusing on the image of IT. We look forward to generating some good ideas about how to make progress in making over the image of IT.

We’re Blogging
The NCWIT blog continues to be one of the most popular areas of our website. In June we had more than 14,000 hits to the blog page and nearly 8,000 RSS subscribers. Since it launched with our website in April 2005, the blog has featured guest appearances from former astronaut Sally Ride; United Negro College Fund President and CEO, Michael Lomax; Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington; and NCWIT Board Chair and venture capitalist Brad Feld, not to mention the opinions of members of our Academic, Industry and Social Science Alliances and our CEO, Lucy Sanders. What started out as a feature platform for guest editorials quickly has become the source of some engaging opinions and food for thought. We encourage your feedback! Please let us know what you think by emailing us at info@ncwit.org.

 


About the National Center for Women & Information Technology
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a growing coalition of over 75 respected corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working aggressively to increase women’s participation in information technology (IT.) NCWIT believes that women’s participation is a compelling issue of innovation, competitiveness, and workforce sustainability. Its goal is professional IT workforce parity in 20 years, and its work will connect efforts along the entire pipeline from K-12 and higher education through industry and academic careers. To find out more, please visit www.ncwit.org.

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