How to Create and Sustain a Women in Computing Group on Your Campus

A Women in Computing (WIC) group on campus can increase members' confidence and enjoyment of their studies, help reduce their feelings of isolation, dispel common myths and stereotypes, and empower members to actively recruit and mentor others. However, establishing a WIC group can be challenging. Below are some suggestions.

 

GET GOING

Engage a group of interested students and advisers: You need a handful of committed students and at least one adviser who will commit the needed time and energy. To build interest, engage technical women at your school in discussions of their shared experiences and concerns. Motivate students on your campus by looking to WIC groups elsewhere for examples of the value they bring to their communities.
 
Establish a charter: A charter gives your WIC group direction and focus. It communicates the group's goals, expectations, and structure to others. A charter typically contains a succinct mission statement and establishes goals for the group. It also describes the leadership hierarchy and the requirements and benefits of membership. Charters of WIC groups at sister campuses can serve as examples. 
 
Make the group official: Registering your WIC group makes it an official student organization. Official standing legitimizes the time and effort student leaders invest in organizing group activities. It also may qualify the group to use campus facilities and obtain funding. Check with the office of student affairs on your campus for information on rights, responsibilities, and benefits of registered student organizations and on the steps to becoming one.
 
Form a Board of Officers: A Board of Officers assumes primary responsibility for steering the group. Ascribing duties to positions helps distribute the workload. It also helps ensure tasks are performed on time and reduces duplication of effort. The Board should reflect the group's diversity, represent a variety of stakeholder viewpoints, and recruit and encourage new members to assume leadership positions. The boards of existing WIC groups vary in both size and types of positions. 
 
Recruit members: Members are natural ambassadors to convey your group's importance and positive impact. They can invite friends and classmates. They can also actively recruit at freshman orientation and in introductory classes; advertise for members on social networking sites, department websites, and on flyers posted in residence halls and around the building; and hold an open house with snacks and information for new members.
 
 

KEEP GOING

Get active: Activities in the first year might focus on building members' confidence and sense of belonging. But the impact of your WIC group will increase if it sponsors a broad range of activities — for instance, tech talks and "code-athons," workshops to mentor local-area girls and minorities, and social events for more than just WIC members. A successful WIC group typically undertakes a wide variety of activities.
 
Affiliate with like-minded organizations: To gain traction, work with other student groups and consider affiliating with a national professional organization. Engaging multiple campus groups in activities increases the activities' impact, visibility, and likelihood of success. It also helps your members connect with others and may help expand your membership. Affiliating with a professional organization such as ACM-W gives your group instant recognition and connects it to sister groups at schools nationwide. 
 
Create a public presence: Your WIC group can create a website with information about group activities and meetings. It can leverage social media, which students can customize to keep members connected and informed. Posting your agenda and goals openly ensures that both members and non-members understand what the group does. "Low-tech" broadcasting methods, such as posting flyers in prominent locations across campus, are effective in drawing attention of non-members. Publicity should invite participation from all who want to support women in computing, not just women.
 
Recognize members for their accomplishments: Recognition can take many forms: a simple congratulatory email, cc'ed to administrators, faculty, and peers; an article in a department or professional society newsletter; a posting on a networking website; or an award at a public ceremony. Recognizing members goes a long way to increase their self-esteem and confidence. It signals that their work is both valued and rewarded, inspires others to follow their lead, and enhances the group's visibility and stature. 
 
Pursue a variety of avenues for funding: A WIC group does not require much funding at the start. Your department may spring for pizzas or snacks at key meetings. But you will need additional monies for such activities as inviting technical speakers or holding technology workshops. Companies may sponsor activities to get their names in front of highly-motivated students. Professional organizations also provide funding opportunities, expertise, and other resources that your group can leverage. Don't be afraid to ask, but be respectful of other groups' efforts.
 
Other resources you can use:
 
 
This resource was produced in collaboration with the Creating and Supporting Student Organizations that Promote Women in Computing, a project team of the NCWIT Academic Alliance.