School of Computer Science to Host Meeting of National Center for Women & Information Technology

Byron SpiceFriday, November 11, 2005

PITTSBURGH-Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science (SCS) will welcome representatives from some of the nation's premier academic institutions and corporations next week, when it hosts a bi-annual meeting of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).

NCWIT is a growing coalition of over 65 organizations working to increase women's participation in the field of information technology (IT). NCWIT believes that the future of U.S. competitiveness depends on maintaining a representative, creative and technically trained workforce, and that women's declining participation is therefore a compelling issue of innovation, competitiveness and workforce sustainability.

The meetings taking place Nov. 16-18 at Carnegie Mellon will focus on developing "promising practices," or practices that have proven effective based on evaluated research, aimed at increasing women's participation in IT academics and careers. Jeannette Wing, head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon, will be a keynote speaker. Another highlight of the meeting will be an evening reception Thursday, Nov. 17, that will feature remarks by Kathie Olsen, deputy director of the National Science Foundation, and Carnegie Mellon Provost Mark S. Kamlet.

The NCWIT meetings commence as Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science prepares to celebrate 50 years of computing, which includes a successful, decade-long effort to attract, retain and nurture women studying computer science.

"We're pleased to host the NCWIT at Carnegie Mellon," said SCS Dean Randal E. Bryant. "Computer science is a dynamic and intellectually engaging field. It will continue to make important strides with high societal impact. We would like to make sure that women are part of this exciting future. We look to NCWIT as a partner in this endeavor."

Women@SCS, a professional organization in the School of Computer Science, is renowned for its on-campus and outreach programs, which have contributed to the school's success in attracting and retaining women. Since 1999 women have comprised up to 37 percent of undergraduate computer science majors at Carnegie Mellon, while the number of women majoring in computer science at universities nationwide is only about 25 percent.

"Carnegie Mellon is a perfect venue for this meeting," added Lenore Blum, distinguished career professor of computer science and founder of Women@SCS. "We have formed a community that provides all of the critical experiences for growth and professional development-academic context, networking, mentors, advice, role models, leadership experiences and opportunities for informal information gathering."

Members of NCWIT's growing consortium hail from universities, corporations, government agencies and nonprofits around the country. Members include such institutions as Avaya, Microsoft, Cisco, Georgia Institute of Technology, IBM, Google, Intel, Princeton University, Spelman College, Girl Scouts of the USA, Stanford University and the University of Washington.

NCWIT's members assemble twice a year to discuss ways to implement institutional change, contribute and discuss promising practices, and guide NCWIT in its mission to increase women's participation in the IT workforce.

"Key to NCWIT's success is our cooperation with institutions like Carnegie Mellon," said Lucy Sanders, CEO of NCWIT. "By uniting and scaling successful programs like those at Carnegie Mellon, we can leverage and coordinate our efforts and achieve aggressive change on a national level."

NCWIT's goal is professional IT workforce parity within 20 years, and its work will connect efforts along the entire pipeline, from K-12 and higher education through industry and academic careers. To date, NCWIT has received nearly $7.25 million in funding, including $5.7 million from the National Science Foundation and $1.5 million in industry and private funding.

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |