NCWIT Pacesetters 2013

I attended the NCWIT Pacesetters meeting in November 2013.  Pacesetters is a group of  within the National Center for Women in Information Technology that are committed to trying new initiatives while recording the “net new women” attracted to computer science programs and jobs because of the efforts.

Virginia Tech reported on its progress toward our self-identified goals.  Our most important goal was to attract 12 women to Virginia Tech through the Aspirations in Computing program. We talked to 100s of girls, received 30 applicants, and have 7 potential undergrads in the pipeline.  We targeted 30 women to enroll in our “designer minors”, and we’re up to 23 as of October 2013.  We aimed to have 15 women in our Association for Women in Computing, far exceeded with 50.  And we wanted to sponsor 40 women at VT to attend diversity-related conferences; thus far we’ve sponsored a trip to Grace Hopper for 15 women.

The University of Washington brought up an interesting question for the industry reps: do your companies want people with non-BS degrees?  Or is there something highly desirable about the very rigorous and technical BS degrees?  It seemed that companies dodged the question to some degree, suggesting that those in attendance preferred students with BS degrees but perhaps other recruiters in their companies would want them for different jobs than those in attendance would want.   This observation was similar to comments from Ken with regard to concerns he’d heard about the new BA program at the University of Colorado, that just because BS degree recipients are highly desired, perhaps BA degree recipients would not be.

As a related note, there was mixed news with regard to a report from Ken Anderson about the University of Colorado’s BA in Computer Science program.  They initiated the program to provide an avenue for a more diverse group of students to learn about computer science, building on the observation that BA programs generally attract more women and other underrepresented minorities than BS programs.  After a very long and drawn-out but ultimately successful process, their new program has huge enrollment numbers overall, but with only 12% women—compared to 15% for BS program.  A surprising result, suggesting perhaps there are other factors at play here other than the BS/BA. CU vows to continue recruitment and engagement, and it’s worth watching to see what happens with enrollment and demographics.

Two other points of interest:

  • Corporations and universities were challenged to consider how they can jointly engage with students ” beyond the career fair…what else can you do, especially to highlight desired groups (women, elite students)”.  Apple suggested its three-pronged approach of identification, retention, and sponsorship.  Lots of universities, including VT, suggested specific events and sponsorships: of student scholarships and awards, of events in social areas, of travel to conferences where companies are in attendance,
  • Companies sought to address the issue of unequal promotion of men and women (which is also an issue in academia).  Intel brought up that regular reviews are needed, as men tend to be more aggressive about pursing promotions. Basically, pushing helps, and if women aren’t pushy (or if they are and are labeled as “bitchy”), then they can get passed over.  This is something that I’ll keep in mind during my stint on the Personnel Committee.

Next Pacesetters meeting is at the NCWIT Summit in May 2014!

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  1. June 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

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