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NCWIT 2014: Pacesetters

Part of the mission of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) is to maintain a group of Pacesetters who seek to achieve quantified increases in women at their institutions through focused programs of recruitment, retention, and promotion.  Virginia Tech is taking part in their second Pacesetters cohort, and I’ve described our goals previously.  A few highlights from the most recent Pacesetters meeting at the NCWIT Summit in May:

  • We had a “get to know someone new” meeting where I got to chat with Lori Wilson from Intel about things we could do to help each other to achieve Pacesetters goals. Lori has an interesting story–she’s been at Intel since she was a teenager, having them pay for her education as she rises through the ranks. She currently focuses on recruiting and retaining women at Intel. We talked about ways to create a pipeline of students between VT and Intel through internships, researcher visits, sponsored scholarships and awards, and the like.
  • We took part in an activity to make technical job ads to attract a more diverse candidate pool. It seems that all too often job ads ask for skills and experiences that aren’t really required, which disproportionally repels women from from applying. A team of Pacesetters is putting together a packet of materials to help with this–hopefully the group’s participation in the activity will prove helpful in the team’s editing and refinement tasks.
  • We talked as a group about what it means to be a Pacesetter. The group has been dragging a bit in goal reporting, with about a third of the cohort failing to report results. Setting goals that can be measured provides opportunities for reflection, though of course it then takes time and resources to accomplish those goals (and goals can change as situations change, even in as short a time as the two year Pacesetters window). So much of Pacesetters–and of diversity activities more generally–requires dedicated leadership and commitment up the ladder of an organization.

Overall, while it’s great to connect with this enthusiastic group, it may be time for Virginia Tech to take a break from Pacesetters after this current round.  We’re experiencing huge growth in our student population and a rise in both our numbers and percentages of women in our department. Perhaps it’s time to maintain the programs we have that are successful (like the Aspirations Awards), put on a back burner the ones that aren’t suitable right now (our Designer Minors, which don’t fit with our over-enrolled classes), and opportunistically look for other ways to increase diversity. We’ve got one more Pacesetters meeting–I’m looking forward to seeing how our programs continue to have impact.

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  1. June 4, 2014 at 10:42 am

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