While women earn nearly 60 percent of bachelor degrees nationally, only 18 percent are related to computing and information science degrees.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Information Science and Technology (IS&T) hopes to increase that number of degrees and improve innovation and productivity within the IT field with their Women in IT Initiative.
The Women in IT Initiative
The initiative started in 2013 with the goal of raising $400,000 for programs that introduce girls to IT in order to double the female population within the College of IS&T.
The initiative has already made great strides by launching programs like Code Crush, an IT immersion experience for eighth and ninth grade girls, as well as a strong mentoring program for incoming female freshmen designed to retain that support and connect students with professionals in the IT field.
“We want to show them the variety of opportunities we offer at the college in hopes of building strong relationships, and letting them know from a young age that there is support and scholarships for them along the way,” said Dr. Deepak Khanzanchi, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, UNO College of IS&T.
The Women in IT Initiative also includes after school programs and dual enrollment for a few Omaha Public Schools as well as the many scholarship opportunities for women wanting to join any of five programs the College of IS&T now offers.
Changing the perception of the IT field
One of the biggest challenges the college has faced while recruiting women is the stereotype of the IT profession.
Khanzanchi explained that strong female IT professionals are not displayed on everyday media; so many girls have little desire to learn more about the high-paying jobs that go unfilled.
“Most people think of computing opportunities as coding jobs, but that’s not necessarily the case. There are many things you can do with an IT degree and we want to inform women at a young age of those opportunities by giving them the correct information and connecting them with strong leaders in the field,” said Khanzanchi.
The big vision
While the college met their initial goal of raising $400K, there is still plenty of work to be done and a great opportunity for the Omaha community to get involved with the initiative.
“We have the right ideas and strategy in place, but we need more support from the community to really succeed. We continue to deliver more opportunities to K-12 schools in hopes of building those relationships early so they have an incentive to come back to us when they start applying for college.”
According to Deepak, the efforts of the initiative are already paying off. Just this fall, the college’s female population has exceeded 100 students, a new record for the College of IS&T.