Increasing the Inclusion of Women in the Information Technology and Cybersecurity Skilled Technical Workforce

As the digital revolution continues to change the way people live and work, the need for a highly skilled computing workforce also continues to grow. Diversity contributes to increased productivity in highly skilled occupations, but women are not yet equitably represented in many computing fields. Nationally, only 26% of professional computing occupations in the 2019 workforce were held by women. Black women represented only 3% and Hispanic women represented only 2% of this workforce. More specifically, women remain underrepresented in the high-demand information technology/ cybersecurity fields, for which job openings and wages are rising rapidly. To ensure the vitality of the information technology and cybersecurity enterprise, the nation must increase the number of women in these fields. This project aims to expand opportunities for women in information technology/ cybersecurity by using strategic outreach, supported by experts, to recruit women, and by supporting these women through completion of their education and training. By increasing women's access to computing jobs, this project can help to mitigate the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on career entry and progression of women in STEM fields.

The overarching vision for this project is to increase the educational attainment of women in high-technology fields that are driving the nations economy, with emphasis on Information Technology and Cybersecurity. To accomplish this vision, the project team will implement best practices for supporting women students, including a comprehensive set of activities that include development of the Community Alliance for Women in Technology, faculty professional development, optimized outreach strategies, a summer Tech Immersion JumpStart, a virtual group mentoring program, proactive academic advising, promotion/support for the attainment of industry certifications, and specialized programming to enhance the student experience. This programming includes events focused on career development, a Women in Technology Student Organization, and a high-tech internship program. Expected project outcomes include: (1) broadening understanding of the impact that professional development has on college faculty and how the delivery of new pedagogies geared to support women in technology affects success and progression of technology coursework; (2) developing best practices for non-academic supports (such as pre-college summer immersion programs and mentoring) that are effective for recruiting and retaining students in technology fields, particularly Black and Hispanic women who are first generation college students; (3) gaining insights into the effects of applied learning experiences (such as internships and soft-skills preparation) on the number of female graduates entering technology fields; and (4) advancing understanding of long-term measures needed to cultivate meaningful and lasting change that can scale to other fields that would benefit from greater diversity and inclusion. This project's emphasis on career preparation with mentoring support may be replicable and sustainable at other institutions interested in increasing the number of women and first-generation students in the skilled technical workforce.

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