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The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

Summit promotes women’s role in computing

Summit promotes women’s role in computing

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The annual NCWIT Summit brings together committed and passionate minds across industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations, united by the goal of increasing the meaningful participation of women in computing. The 2013 event, which took place in Tucson, Arizona, in late May, was no exception, with insightful presentations, hands-on workshops, and great networking opportunities, all designed to foster women’s growing role in IT and computer science.

Microsoft was pleased to participate in the opening session of the summit, with Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research Connections, announcing the company’s commitment to four more years of sponsored partnership with NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology). Tony stressed that diversity, including gender diversity, helps drive innovation and is critical to advances in computing. He highlighted the very real and personal aspects of this topic through the story of Emily Peed-Brown, who received the benefit of NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing Talent Development Initiative and is now utilizing her passion to help middle-school girls become involved in the computer sciences.

The NCWIT Academic Alliance supports female students, from their first studies in technology through their collegiate degrees
The NCWIT Academic Alliance supports female students, from their first studies in technology through their collegiate degrees.

During the general sessions and open receptions, attendees came together to learn from each other, showcase successes, discuss the latest research, and be inspired to make an even greater commitment to driving change through computer science. With the looming talent shortage for US technical jobs, the continued challenge of retaining and growing the number of women in technology leadership, and the low percentage of young women receiving computing and information sciences degrees (just 18 percent), there is work to be done.

The heart of the NCWIT organization resides in its learning communities, called Alliances. The K-12 and Academic Alliances, for example, support young female students, from their first studies in technology through their collegiate degrees, while the Workforce and Affinity Alliances focus on the retention and advancement of women in computing careers. Successes by these groups on both ends are cause for celebration. For example, the K-12 Alliance announced the launch of a Spanish-language microsite to bring the NCWIT message and resources to Spanish-speaking parents and influencers, and the Workforce Alliance launched the results of their last year’s efforts with the publication of Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces.

The NCWIT Pacesetters committed to a new project aimed at growing girls’ awareness of the many career opportunities in the computing and IT fields.
The NCWIT Pacesetters committed to a new project aimed at growing girls’ awareness of the many career opportunities in the computing and IT fields.

A subset of members, including Microsoft, participate in a special NCWIT program called Pacesetters, where participating technical companies and academic institutions commit to increasing the number of women in their organizations. In a cross-industry cohort, they also work together on a common project. The first cohort created and launched the successful and ongoing Sit With Me campaign, a national advocacy campaign that provides a platform for advancing NCWIT’s mission. At this year’s NCWIT Summit, the newly formed cohort committed to a new project aimed at growing girls’ awareness of the numerous career opportunities and benefits that are available in the computing and IT fields.

As informative and interesting as the general sessions were, and as much as we shared and learned in the Alliance meetings, nothing topped the Aspirations in Computing Awards ceremony. The spark in the eyes of the honored high school girls ignited something in all of us. These girls are now part of a strong community of thousands of young women who are ready to embark upon the work and use their keen minds to make their mark in information technology fields. They remind us all of the NCWIT mission. It is not just about the numbers—it’s about the next wave of technical innovators who will shape our world, and the importance of women being part of this future.

—Dalene King, Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Microsoft

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