National summit on women & IT looks at challenges, solutions for inclusiveness in IT

Yesterday, business leaders, educators and policy makers convened at New York University for the NCWIT Summit on Women and IT. The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) is an organization that works to identify best practices and solutions for a more inclusive educational system and workforce. This year, the summit challenged attendees to consider the future economy and how best to structure educational and job training initiatives that are responsive to new realities while being inclusive to women and girls.

According to the Department of Labor, the US is estimated to add 1.4 million technology jobs by 2018, yet US colleges and universities will produce less than half of the skilled workers needed to fill these positions. The number of women in IT is also falling, in 2009 only 25% of US IT professionals were women compared with 36% in 1991.

Additionally, children in the K-12 educational system in the US are not being exposed to even basic computer science concepts as they are not part of standardized testing requirements. In order to find solutions to these problems NCWIT created a variety of targeted alliance groups within the organization to address these challenges in the workforce, educational system, entrepreneurship and academia.

To that end, NCWIT has partnered with IT business leaders such as Microsoft and Google to engage the private sector and learn about the type of candidates they are looking for and the challenges they have in identifying qualified candidates. NCWIT’s own researchers have captured this information in a variety of resources including practice sheets, best practices and reports that companies and individuals can use to examine inclusiveness in their own localities and organizations.

A recent initiative compiled government data on a district by district basis to show the gaps in computer science education and compare that with the job demand in a given area. The graphic included here highlights the results from one of the states on the map. Other partnerships with organizations such as the Computer Science Teachers Association have led to increased support for computer science curriculum in K-12 education including recent success in making computer science a requirement in Pennslyvania school districts.

“There’s increased demand for technology talent and organizations need to capitalize on diversity in fulfilling their business objectives,” said Lucy Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of NCWIT.

Another NCWIT initiative – Aspirations in Computing honors high school girls throughout the nation for their achievements in computing and academic performance. Winners this year had ability with a variety of programming languages, robotics, gaming and design.

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