ACM MemberNet - ACM Joins Partnership to Increase Women's Participation in IT Careers

November 1, 2004

ACM has joined a high-profile network of organizations to support a new national effort to foster equal participation for women and men in information technology careers. The organization, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) is the only coalition to focus its information technology efforts on a nationwide scale, across the entire K-12, higher education and industry pipeline. ACM's role in NCWIT augments its ongoing efforts on behalf of women and underrepresented groups in the computing and IT fields.

ACM CEO John White is enthusiastic about collaborating with NCWIT to address inequities in opportunities for women. "We know from our own work on behalf of women in technology that women contribute in creative and compelling ways to advance the discipline and promote policies that benefit society," he said. "We recognize that women are not participating equitably in this technology arena for a variety of reasons. But we believe NCWIT can be a catalyst for greater awareness and innovative solutions that will transform the workplace and the academic world, and make them more attractive and receptive to women," White concluded.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $3.25 million to establish the National Center, a collaborative effort of universities, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations led by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. The four-year award is the largest education and workforce award ever made by NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate.

NCWIT Executive Director Lucinda Sanders welcomed ACM's support. "ACM and the National Center's other partners have an exemplary record of creating and applying programs, research and outreach on women and technology. We rely on their expertise and commitment to make this effort succeed," said Sanders, Executive in Residence of the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS) at Colorado's Boulder campus.

The NCWIT leadership team also includes Robert Schnabel, Director of the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado and vice provost for academic and campus technology, and Telle Whitney, President and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

NCWIT is organized around a distributed model of "hubs" to encourage efficiency, support existing programs, unify efforts where appropriate, and provide leverage for national impact. These hub partners act as the foundation for the creation and application of programs, research and outreach, and will be used to identify and disseminate the most effective practices to advance the participation of women in information technology on a national scale.

Hub partners, which have also provided planning support, include the Computing Research Association, the Girl Scouts of the USA, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Berkeley and Irvine campuses of the University of California. In addition, NSF, the AT&T Foundation, HP, the Colorado Institute of Technology and various individuals supplied planning support for the Center.

ACM brings two major activities to NCWIT to help increase the participation of women in computing:

ACM's Committee on Women in Computing (ACM-W), which works with the community of computer scientists, educators, employers and policy makers to improve working and learning environments for women.

ACM's newest initiative, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), which addresses teacher qualification and training, differing curriculum standards, and declining student interest -- particularly among women and other underrepresented groups -- in Computer Science courses in secondary schools.

"Through these initiatives, ACM is working at all stages of the technology pipeline to insure more participation by women," said White. "By coordinating these initiatives with other programs through NCWIT, we will help build a united voice in the media, in schools, at home, and in Washington."

In addition to these initiatives, ACM co-hosts the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a biennial meeting focused on the research and career interests of women, which is the single largest gathering of women computing professionals. See related story in this issue.