IT Employment

Special Report for Women in IT: Educational opportunities

This Women in IT Special Report highlights educational opportunities for females of all ages who are interested in technology. The panelists in this podcast include Jon Dewey, Nelly Yusupova, Ramona Santa Maria, and Elizabeth Perry.

Podcast

The Women in IT podcast series on TechRepublic has generated several discussions outside of the recording studio and helped introduce me to several people I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. This Special Report, which highlights educational opportunities for females of all ages who are interested in technology, is a prime example.

Sure, the TechRepublic community has talked about IT career opportunities for women before, as well as the relatively low number of women currently working in IT, but we haven't truly broadened the conversation to encompass what we're doing right now to educate women -- young and old -- about technology.

This is where Jon Dewey comes in. In an e-mail, Jon told me about the initiative that they are starting at his school to teach middle school girls about computers, networking, and gaming. He asked if I knew any women already working in IT who would be interested in participating in the initiative. While it's still in the planning stages, they were considering having expert speakers come to the school, talk to the counselors and female students, and get everyone excited about the benefits of pursuing IT careers.

I put the word out to several women -- some from the TechRepublic community, a few who I have previously interviewed for the Women in IT series, and others who I have met through conversations about women in IT. In the back of my mind, I thought, "This would be a great podcast!" And so I followed that thought, contacting Jon and a few of the women who I knew would have some insight and first-hand experience with this particular topic.

Listed below are the people who make up the Special Report panel, as well as information about the various initiatives, programs, and schools that they're affiliated with. I encourage the panelists and the TechRepublic community to keep this conversation going, even after the podcast recording has ended. Listen to the podcast.

Jon Dewey -- an admin assistant to the regional Tech Prep Coordinator at a state vocational/technical school - the Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton, Oklahoma. For more information about the school, go to www.gptech.org. Nelly Yusupova -- a programmer, Web developer extraordinaire, and CTO of Webgrrls International, which hosts an outreach program.

Team Webgrrls is the outreach program of Webgrrls International where local chapters reach into the community to offer women and girls an opportunity to learn about and gain exposure to different technologies while offering mentors, role models and opportunities to learn about available technology. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of women to get excited about and get involved in the Internet and Technology.

The local chapter Steering Committee determines what the appropriate programs should be, prepares the curriculum, and then taps into their local chapter Webgrrls members for volunteers. NYC Webgrrls (I am the chapter leader) have completed three projects with the Mercy Center in the Bronx.

Ramona Santa Maria -- the Buffalo Webgrrls chapter leader and a full-time instructor at Buffalo State College, where she teaches a variety of courses regarding IT.

One of my courses in particular, Integrating Technology in the Classroom, is almost always predominantly women. These are preservice teachers who have very little technology experience, but produce nice work

I also teach Technology in Society, where students use Web 2.0 technologies like blogging and del.icio.us to keep a record of their readings/posts on others blogs, rather than traditional paper and pencil.

Lastly, I teach a computer fundamentals course (101, primarily freshmen) where I used podcasting, rather than a final essay, for students to bring back their research and have their final evaluation. Listen to the students' podcasts.

Elizabeth Perry -- a Technology Integration Specialist at The Ellis School, which is an Independent all girls PK-12 day school. To learn more about The Ellis School, visit www.theellisschool.org. You can also view the site showing of last year's VR images made by the second grade.

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

7 comments
mail2
mail2

I wish I wasn't so busy - I'd love to hold some tech classes and such for young and teen girls. I've worked way too many tech jobs where I've been the only female on staff in our department and would love to see more women in the field.

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

While our "Girl Geek" summer academy is still moving full steam ahead, I will not be an active participant in it, because I am moving. If you want more information about the Great Plains Technology Center initiative, these individuals are the contact points: Sally Arrington, Tech Prep Coordinator and project leader sarrington@gptech.org Michael Graves, Network Security instructor mgraves@gptech.org I appreciate all the help Sonja and everyone who has responded has given me (and us here) on our project. You guys are great!

Victoree
Victoree

I notice the absence of outreach to those who have some direct influence on the attitudes of girls about technology: elementary school teachers. There are many elementary teachers who are still either afraid to use tech in classrooms because their lack of knowledge, are in technology poor systems, or use computers as a reward for good behavior.

santamrr
santamrr

Mamaprofesora - This is Ramona from this podcast. Thanks for your insight and in many respects you have "hit the nail on the head". We should be looking to reproduce more positive attitudes, like you've expressed, beginning at the elementary school level. Here are some of the reasons I see that this is not already happening: 1.) My experience when teaching pre-service teachers they are either very resistant to technology or have very little confidence using the computer. This makes teaching 'technology integration' methods a bit of a challenge. When educators are not comfortable with technology they cannot leave the class and foster better attitudes with their students. 2.) Once these pre-service teachers go into the classroom, if they fail to gain confidence with technology, many fall into the "school teacher" role. This is a more "feminine" role that doesn't include taking an interest in a "male" topic like computing. These two factors reproduce and reinforce these attitudes regarding women in IT. Beginning a change in the lower grades is a perfect idea, one which I hope Elizabeth from the podcast will shed some light in the blog session. Personally, I know that attending an all-girls high school made a greater impact for me when taking computer classes because everyone there was female. If socially we can get people to think of the "technology field" as place for PEOPLE rather than just men, then these attitudes can filter to the general population to the schools.

Tig2
Tig2

Choose a loaded subject! When I was a young woman, girls were encouraged to go into "girl" jobs. We were nurses, not doctors, admins, not engineers. And not because we were incapable but because we were female. There was a continual sense that we weren't a force in the workplace, but more a passer-by. The day would come when we would quit the job and move on to raising the family- our REAL profession. Times changed. But some old thinking stayed the same. I know that some male peers would disagree. But I also know that those are the same male peers with whom I would have a conversation without the sense that they were "humoring the girl". Real peers in a professional sense. The unpretty truth is that men like that are not as common as we would like to think and that many tolerate my gender but do not accept us as PEERS. To make it worse, I know a great many women in IT who truly believe that the only way that they are taken seriously is to be the biggest (b)itch that they can be. Let's face it- back in the day if you were a woman in IT you were either fat or unattractive or both. It is refreshing to know that there are educators out there who are interested in speaking to young women about IT and the opportunity that it can be as a career choice. More importantly, that there are educators out there who are willing to acknowledge that there are still stereotypes that young women not only perceive but react to- thus potentially limiting them. Equally refreshing are the myriad ways that educators are bringing technology to the technology classroom, encouraging students to use what they are learning. I agree- the education discussion needs to be open and vibrant. The sense is that technology is a dead end as a career choice. I would like to think that it is simply evolving- possibly faster than we are comfortable with.

Mnemonyss
Mnemonyss

I wanted to go into Automotive Repair as a high school student, but was told I should go into Accounting and Art, that my test scores were too high for me to go into a field like Automotive repair. I instead opted for the computer classes that were offered. My career is now in IT, but I still work on cars :)

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

What you just said are some of the reasons that we are implementing our outreach to students. The stereotypes of women as only being teachers, nurses, secretaries or housewives are being challenged (by us!). Our school has successfully graduated female firefighters, network administrators, diesel mechanics, automotive technicians, carpenters, graphic artists, and law enforcement personnel. I admit we are probably not the "norm," but that is what we are doing. I agree with you also about technology evolving faster than we are comfortable with. People like routine. They like what is comfortable. The challenge is to unseat from the comfortable and to embrace change. Embracing change takes some effort.