Groups step up efforts to develop more female IT workers

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It comes as no surprise that women are greatly under-represented in the IT ranks. Numerous studies have confirmed the male dominance of most IT departments. But there are a number of efforts underway to help change that picture, including some that came out of National Mentoring Month in January.

Among those efforts was the partnership of the National Center for Women in Technology, or NCWIT, with newly-launched Million Women Mentors, aka MWM, which kicked off Jan. 8.

Million Women Mentors is a collective national campaign and program aimed at "captivating one million mentors to link with one million girls and young professionals for their STEM careers," notes the program announcement at the NCWIT web site. "Through its efforts MWM works to showcase existing best practices and suggestions for the future. Utilizing a technology portal built in three phases and developed in collaboration with Tata Consulting Services, MWM technology will enable mentor services for the nation."

The Million Women Mentors program is a collective effort involving 35 non-profits and major corporations. The organization also hopes to see government agencies join its effort. They are also working closely with STEMconnector, an information and best practices resource on STEM education. The STEMconnector "purpose is to map STEM activity of organizations, government, private sector, education, associations, diversity and women."

All of this effort is intended to help convince women to pursue careers in technology, or to stay with technology if that is where they received their education.

As noted by the NCWIT, "while more than half of the undergraduate degree recipients in 2011 were female, only 18 percent of computer and information science undergraduate degree recipients in 2011 were female. Additionally, while 57 percent of professional occupations in the 2012 U.S. workforce were held by women, only 26 percent of professional computing occupations in the 2012 U.S. workforce were held by women."

As part of its support for National Mentoring Month, NCWIT's AspireIT program also began accepting grant proposals for its 2014 grant cycle. The AspireIT program in an outreach program for girls in middle school, and is supported by Intel, Northrop Grumman and Google. The program provides tech camps, clubs and workshops that teach girls about programming, game design, robotics and other technology topics.

"At a time when girls' and women's participation in the technical workforce is far less than 50 percent, mentoring is most critical," noted NCWIT founder and CEO Lucy Sanders. "Mentoring can provide the necessary encouragement to help girls and women persist in STEM and bridge this gap."

For more:
- see the National Center for Women & Technology web site
- read the NCWIT announcement
- see the Million Women Mentors web site
- see the STEMconnector web site

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