Closing the IT Gender Gap

Published: Jul 27, 2006

Closing the IT Gender Gap

Every college diploma represents the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice by students and their families. But for the seven young women who were the first graduating class of UMBC’s Center for Women and Information Technology (CWIT) Scholars program, graduation was also a giant step forward for shrinking the high-technology workforce “gender gap.”

CWIT, the award-winning program that ABC called “one of best resources for women on the web,” is dedicated to achieving women’s full participation in all aspects of information technology (IT).

The CWIT Scholars Program recruits talented male and female high school students who support women’s full involvement in IT and provides them with four years of financial, academic and personal support as they pursue IT-related bachelor’s degrees at UMBC.

Other benefits for CWIT Scholars include career mentoring from experienced technology professionals. Through initiatives like ESTEEM and Computer Mania Day, the Scholars inspire middle-school girls, an age studies have shown is when girls start to turn away from science and technology coursework and careers due to societal or peer pressure.

The first class of CWIT Scholars – Payal Aggarwal, Heidi Brueckner, Sumita Das, Lindsay Mannchen, Samantha Moffatt, Natalie Podrazik and Candice Scarborough – are off to a great start, with future plans ranging from jobs with top corporations like Constellation Energy, General Electric, Erickson Retirement Communities and Northrop Grumman to attending U.S. Naval Postgraduate School after completing a summer internship with Microsoft.

For the Scholars, building a strong personal and professional support network was the key to improving their confidence and sense of community.

“I really appreciate the networking opportunities that CWIT provided,” said Brueckner. “I was able to find a wonderful mentor, two internships and a job. I’m extremely grateful that I had such a supportive family behind me every step of the way.”

“There were many times throughout college where I found my classes very challenging and it was helpful to have other CWIT scholars to turn to,” said Das. “We’ve all been there for each other for the past four years.”

“The biggest thing I took away from CWIT is how important networking is to move up in business and achieve your goals,” said Mannchen. “Personally, the CWIT staff has encouraged me to go for what I want and to never to give up when faced with adversity.”

“The first cohort of CWIT scholars demonstrated first hand women’s ability to excel in IT and served as ambassadors of excellence in their internships and research experiences,” said Claudia Morrell, director of CWIT. “They are the students and future employees everyone wants in their labs and workplaces because they will set the bar high and achieve it every time.”

“The CWIT Scholar program taught me that if you work hard and believe in what you are doing you can achieve anything,” said Aggarwal. “They taught me that I can be anything, and even how to instill that in others.” 









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