NSF GRANTS $3.25 M TO NATIONAL CENTER FOR WOMEN & INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

October 18, 2004

In an age of increasing gender equity in many areas, women still represent only 25 percent of all information technology professionals. With the help of a $3.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of Colorado at Boulder is leading the mobilization of the National Center for Women & Information Technology.



The four-year grant became effective Oct. 1 with an initial $1 million from NSF.



"I am delighted by this support for the mission of the center, which is to ensure that women are fully represented in the influential world of informational technology and computing," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard Byyny. "The center's goal is to achieve work force parity within 20 years, by making a concerted national effort that connects primary and higher education with careers in the IT industry and academia."



The center is a collaborative effort between universities, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations. Its core will be housed primarily on the CU-Boulder campus in the new Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society, or ATLAS, building, which is scheduled to open in fall 2006. ATLAS, a co-founder of the center, will continue to be a vital component, contributing center leadership and research to highlight effective educational programs.



"We need women's unique and creative approaches to technology in today's innovative world," said Lucinda Sanders, executive-in-residence for ATLAS and the center's CEO. "But women continue to opt out of participation in information technology at all phases of the education and career pipeline. We intend to change that, through approaches that identify and actively disseminate effective practices and build a national movement for change."



According to national data, women accounted for only 28 percent of IT degrees in 2001, down from 37 percent in 1984. High-school-age women currently represent only 13 percent of the computer science Advanced Placement test-takers.



The NSF grant is the largest work force grant ever from its Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate. "Broadening participation is one of the primary programmatic objectives of CISE," said NSF division director Gregory Andrews. "The National Center for Women & Information Technology's research on effective practices and its broad national coalition offer excellent prospects for success."



CU President Betsy Hoffman feels very strongly about the importance of the center. According to Hoffman, "Information technology is the most influential area of our nation's economy where women are still greatly underrepresented. The health of our nation depends upon the full involvement of all our citizens, and we are proud that the University of Colorado is leading this effort."



The National Center for Women & Information Technology is comprised of a network of partner organizations, companies and individuals. In addition to CU-Boulder, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology serves as a founding and core organization of the center.



The center's hubs, which conduct programmatic and research activities for the center, also include the Association for Computing Machinery, 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. Each of the hub institutions has provided significant support for the center. NSF, the AT&T Foundation, HP, the Colorado Institute of Technology and various individuals also have supplied planning support for the center.



"The spirit of partnership that so many distinguished people and organizations have brought to the center to address this vital national issue is truly remarkable," said Robert Schnabel, vice provost for academic and campus technology, ATLAS director and principal investigator on the NSF grant. "A crucial part of this is the academic and industry alliances, which will contribute and adapt effective practices and drive change nationally."



Founding members of the academic alliance include Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Florida State University, Indiana University, Smith College, Spelman College, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, University of California at San Diego, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin. Industry alliance founding members include Avaya, Bank of America, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Sun.