People who decide these things have designated today as “Giving Tuesday,” a day on which we are all encouraged to support a not for profit organization (501(c)3) either financially or by volunteering for them. You may or may not have a favorite 501(c)3 to which to donate. If not, I would like to propose one for you.
Before suggesting it, I need to provide some background. This morning a friend forwarded me an article, Women in IT: How Deep in the Bench. While the article he sent me landed on a page with a picture of Ginni Rometty, President of IBM (and fellow Northwestern alumna), the article went on to document the small number of women who elect to pursue careers in the information technologies. The article (from ComputerWorld) noted that only 25% of workers in the computing industry are women and that only 12% of the companies are headed by women. While the article did discuss the advantage of having more diverse design teams, unfortunately, it did not tell us anything new about how to attract women into the field.
Personally, I think the answer to this question is to expose young women to the wide range of opportunities available to them if they pursue a technology degree (in computer science or in information systems). Too many people think that programmers sit alone in a cubicle and work on boring systems. Those of us in the field know that the life is nothing like that. We are likely to be on a project team and spend a lot of time interacting with others. Projects might be anything from helping doctors diagnose disease, to blending music, to helping police find “bad guys,” to running Facebook! Everyone uses computers and they need people working to make the businesses work smarter. What we need to do is to introduce this wide ranging field to the girls so they know what opportunities are available to them.
This gets me back to “Giving Tuesday.” Each of the last five summers, UMSL has run a summer academy called Xtreme IT! The goal of the academy is to expose students to the wide range of opportunities available in the computing profession (you can view the website, including the list of activities from last year). For the first four years, the number of boys far exceeded the number of girls; in fact, one year there were 16 boys and 1 girl! Last year, however, we received a grant to fund scholarships for girls, regardless of their economic backgrounds. We used these scholarships for recruitment and ended up with over 60% of the attendees being girls! Some of those girls began ollege programs in computing fields this Fall. Others still in high school are applying to college in computing fields, or pursuing activities to put them in a better position to apply in those fields. WOW! While we need to wait to learn if these students stay in computing, this looks like a great investment
Do you want to have an impact on increasing the number of women in computing technologies? If so, please consider supporting a scholarship for a girl to attend Xtreme IT! A full scholarship is $600, but any contribution will help (lots of small contributions will end up at $600). You can send a check to Xtreme IT!, 210 ESH, University of Missouri – St. Louis, One University Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63121-4400. Or you can give online. Make sure you designate your gift to the Information Systems Department in the drop down box and then put “Xtreme IT! Scholarships for Girls” in the box to target your gift.
If you give to this, I personally promise the money will help a girl have a great experience learning about careers in computing technologies.