Women in IT Launches in North Texas

In mid-April, Citi and NPower’s The Community Corps launched the Women In IT (WIT) Program in North Texas. The program brings women technology professionals into classrooms to talk to middle school and high school girls about the opportunities and benefits of pursuing a career in IT.

According to the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) only 17% of Computer Science degrees were earned by women in 2014, down from 37% in 1985, and only 25% of computer science occupations are held by women. The Women In IT Program aims to reverse this trend by connecting girls directly to women working in IT.

During just the first week, WIT Dallas reached over 1,500 girls in the Grand Prairie and Mansfield School Districts and involved professional volunteers from Citi, Broadridge, Tata Consultancy Services, Thomson Reuters, JP Morgan Chase and NPower.

During the presentations, volunteers provided girls insight as to how technology continues to change every American industry today from banking and medicine to food and agriculture. In fact, 67% of IT/Tech jobs are outside the technology sector.

Volunteers also shared their own career paths into IT and explained how working in technology means a great salary and great future prospects. A major focus of the WIT workshop is a review of the many types of jobs available in IT, not just programming or working on hardware, but a job for almost any interest and skill set. One student remarked, “I didn’t think programming could be fun, or that someone like me could be part of it. I have been worrying about what to do after high school. I really liked what they (volunteers) were saying about being a tester or an anti-hacker with cyber security. I think I would like that and I could be good at it.”

The impact of the sessions on individual girls is noticeable and the WIT surveys show an increased interest in IT careers and computer science education amongst girls who participate. A teacher at a partnering school explained, “My girls aren’t exposed to many careers and it’s great for them to hear from women who have their own careers and are on the cutting edge of their field. Computers are everywhere nowadays and we really want our young women to be part of it.” One volunteer from Broadridge told a particularly poignant story. One student came up to her after the session and explained that she had just been accepted into a Gifted and Talented program for students interested in technology. The volunteer congratulated the girl and asked her if her parents were proud. The girl said, “My father says that technology is for boys.” Without missing a beat, our Broadridge volunteer said, “Well that is exactly why we are here today, to end that kind of thinking. I am proud of you, and I encourage you to follow your dream – you will be terrific.”

The Women in IT program will continue reaching out to girls in the Grand Prairie and Mansfield school districts and hopes to reach even more girls in North Texas this coming fall. Volunteers interested in Women In IT should reach out to Tara Penny at tara.penny@npower.org or visit www.thecommunitycorps.org .

Tara Penny