The lack of women in the information technology workforce directly affects the nation’s economic future — only 26 percent of IT professionals are women. This lack of gender diversity is a key factor to the growing shortage of tech talent; future U.S. graduates with bachelor’s degrees in computing can fill only 40 percent of the projected tech jobs in our nation.
UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) Women in Computing Initiative aims to tackle this national challenge.
Women represent half of the almost 28,000 students at UNC Charlotte. The Women in Computing Initiative is designed to tap into this vast talent pool by attracting more freshmen and undeclared women at the University to declare CCI majors and help them successfully graduate.
The College of Computing and Informatics is one of the largest computing programs in the United States and represents 25 percent of the overall UNC system’s enrollment in IT. However, only 16 percent of undergraduate CCI majors are women and attrition among female students is higher than their male counterparts.
"Our goal is simple," said CCI Dean Yi Deng. "Increase the percentage of women undergraduate majors from the current 16 percent to 30 percent, or 500 female undergraduate students in five years, and double the number of female graduates."
Key faculty and staff members have been assembled to define a strategic plan that will change the scope of gender diversity in IT in the Charlotte region. This detailed plan, with key milestones for scalability and sustainability, will certainly place UNC Charlotte and the College of Computing and Informatics at the forefront. CCI’s scale and its role as the dominant provider of tech talents in North Carolina, will be the driving force behind the objectives of the initiative which include:
- Building large-scale industry, faculty and peer mentoring and support networks for women students. To date there are more than 75 industry mentors working with the female students.
- A robust scholarship fund is in place for women to pursue CCI majors to rapidly build a community of women students and expand access to opportunities in computing. The Charlotte chapter of the Society of Information Management (SIM) established a $25,000 endowed scholarship, of which $15,000 was distributed in spring 2016.
- CCI has created an active, hands-on curriculum, "FemmTech," to introduce and attract women to career prospects in computing. The course is open to men and women.
- Ongoing efforts are underway to improve the college culture, policy and faculty leadership to build a welcoming environment for female students.
Deng added, "Our success will set a national model for others to follow. We invite business and industry to be a part of the movement to change the equation of gender diversity in computing."