December 19, 2005

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $2.4 million, five-year extension grant to the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) for the launch of the "Collaborative Research: Mobilizing Implementation of Effective Practices to Increase Participation of Women in Computing" project.

The project targets an established national coalition of undergraduate academic departments to solve a nationally recognized problem: under-representation of women in the computing disciplines. Social scientists at the University of Colorado-Boulder, The University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison will work in conjunction with members of NCWIT's Academic Alliance to research and implement practices for the increase and retention of women in computing disciplines.

Interest in computing-related fields is declining among undergraduates of both sexes. Last year, according to the Higher Education Research Institute, 39 percent fewer students declared computer science majors than in 2000. Increasing women's participation in computing and information technology therefore has far-reaching national consequences, such as providing for national workforce needs and improving the development and design of computing systems, applications, and products through the integration of diverse ideas.

The grant, awarded through NSF's Division of Human Resource Development, Directorate for Education & Human Resources (EHR), complements a $3.25 million award NCWIT received from the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering in 2004.

Through the funds, NCWIT will implement annual workshops and perform site consultations with members of its Academic Alliance as they implement and evaluate practices for increasing gender diversity in their computing programs. NCWIT will broadly publish the results of pilot programs and distribute the practices free of charge to all interested institutions.

The multi-pronged approach will focus on changing the system, not just overcoming "deficiencies" among female students. Thus the program requires fewer resources and will be sustained beyond the funding period.

NCWIT is a growing coalition of over 65 respected corporations, academic institutions, government agencies and non-profits working aggressively to invest in research and education, determine best practices for progress, and implement these solutions across the country. NCWIT's overarching goal is parity in the professional IT workforce, and its fundamental strategy is to educate, disseminate, and advocate a national, multi-year implementation plan that generates tangible progress within 20 years.

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