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May 11, 201710:22 AMOpen Mic

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Supporting women in technology starts when they're girls

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This past weekend, 52 young female students were honored by the National Center for Women in Technology’s (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing Program for their active pursuit and development toward academics and working in information technology. While we honored the students, I can say it was an honor for me to witness their stories.

Oftentimes as youth we look up to career mentors to illuminate the path toward academic and professional goals. This program provides those opportunities to allow these talented students to have a support system and visibility to aid them in their interest. But along the way a funny thing happens — they (the students) are also providing inspiration to all of us.

To take in all of the accomplishments of these women was being a witness to a movement. There was a sense that fewer barriers or labels are being tied to girls in IT. There was a sense of pride in their accomplishments. All of their pursuits were about purpose — I heard examples of students working to change the world, to do critical research, to solve health issues, to advance sciences, and to help the elderly. While gaming or conventional technology may have been an entry point into IT for them, I was amazed at their sincere interest to apply their learning toward societal and health issues. Not one person talked about going after money or any ego-driven reasons for pursuing this career path. Truly inspiring.

As an employer of hundreds of technology professionals, I left inspired. It’s encouraging to see a new generation coming in that doesn’t see their age or gender as barriers to impact. It was also encouraging to see the support of companies and IT professionals that are thriving today backing this important program.

It goes without saying there are ample benefits to a diverse workforce. IT has historically been a very male dominant industry, with only 26% of U.S. computing jobs being occupied by women. While some progress has been made, the needle hasn’t moved enough in employment statistics and there is room to help support more women in technology. This necessitates programs like this to aid these girls in their journey.

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