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National Center for Women & Information Technology: Aspirations in Computing

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. See the organization’s website for its latest information.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology's (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing is a talent development pipeline initiative to inspire young women to participate in computing and information technology. Founded in 2006, the program's mentoring philosophy focuses on those high school students who will most likely go into a college computer science program, as well as those who have potential but may not know they have the option.

Aspirations in Computing operates on a franchise model by which regional teams of NCWIT member organizations implement the program locally, basing their work on a nationally supported framework. NCWIT provides the project management, technology infrastructure, templates and tools for local implementation, while the regional affiliates provide personal interaction with the participants. Affiliate teams are full-pipeline collaborations that include K-12 organizations, academic institutions, and industry
partners. As of Fall 2011, there are 30 local affiliates serving girls and educators in 27 U.S. states and territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands).

Mentorship for NCWIT includes recognizing interest in the mentees before they choose a college major, informing them of educational or career opportunities, providing online and peer networking, engaging them in real projects, presenting public awareness of girl's accomplishments, and recognizing and encouraging the educators that support them. The program has been responsible for the mentoring of more than 2,300 young women throughout the United States. In addition to mentoring these young women, NCWIT has broadened its network with a database that includes nearly 10,000 young women that are interested in technology fields.

Participants are surveyed annually to ascertain persistence in the field, college enrollment, and other levels of participation. Of 295 respondents on the most recent survey, 193 were in college. Sixty-one percent of those responding reported a computer science or computer engineering major or minor. Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported a major /minor in a traditionally male-dominated STEM field (mathematics & biology are not included in the STEM percentage because women are not underrepresented in those areas).

The Aspirations in Computing program has built a replicable and adaptable program model which has already scaled to serve 50 percent of U.S. states. The program is growing at a level of 30 percent year over year, and forms the scaffolding for a myriad of other engagement opportunities with auxiliary groups and stakeholders.