Supporting women in technology starts when they're girls

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.



As a father of three girls this hits home at a personal level. I’m proud to commit my company’s energy behind this and other programs that support women in technology and focus on assistance during their youth. I’d encourage any of you who have interest in this to also look at programs like NCWIT Aspirations in Computing and others as opportunities to help in this charter.

I took my 10-year-old daughter to this past weekend’s awards ceremony, which she really enjoyed. Outside of her comments about enjoying the good food, she more importantly took notice of the stories shared by some of the past award winners. Whether she pursues a career in IT is up to her, but she left this ceremony feeling like that is something that is truly up to her.

Congratulations to NCWIT Aspirations in Computing and for all acknowledged award winners for helping inspire my daughter, our community, and me. Cheers!

John Miller is executive vice president and general manager at PDS Paragon Development Systems, a Midwest-based information technology solution provider that supports health care, government, education, manufacturing, and corporate organizations with digital workspace, security, and enterprise technology solutions.

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