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There is a significant dearth of women working in—or even entering—the computer science field. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), only 18 percent of computer science degrees in 2008 were awarded to women. That was a dramatic drop from 37 percent in 1985. With those totals, it's not surprising that only 16 percent of Fortune 500 technology companies have female executives. Of greater concern is the small number of women who are applying for technology jobs, even during the economic downturn when jobs are scarce. NCWIT is working to reverse that trend.
Winners at the event held at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, MA
We are proud to be the primary financial supporter of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which honors young women at the high-school level for their computer-related achievements and interests. NCWIT offers both national and local "affiliate" competitions to generate support and visibility for women's participation in communities nationwide.
National Award winners receive a US$500 cash prize; a laptop computer provided by Bank of America; a trip to attend the Bank of America Technology Showcase and Awards Ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina; and an engraved award for both the student and the student's school. Affiliate Award winners receive an engraved award for their home and school, plus additional prizes from local sponsors.
I'm pleased to announce that the academic community stepped up this year to offer scholarships to this year's NCWIT winners as well. There will be 19 Affiliate Award programs serving 20 states and U.S. territories in the 2010/2011 round. Schools expected to connect with our winners include:
The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is a promising avenue for reaching out to and encouraging young women with a budding interest in computer science. By nurturing this interest early, we are increasing the likelihood that these young women will pursue computer science degrees and one day join us as the next generation of world-class computer scientists.
—Jane Prey, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections division of Microsoft Research