Microsoft Corp. announced a $1 million grant and a four-year commitment to the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to encourage women to pursue careers in IT. The announcement was made at today’s Future Potential in IT seminar held at Seattle University. The series is a national program, co-founded by Microsoft and the Society for Information Management, designed to encourage young people to consider a career in information technology or a related field.
“We are delighted with this gift and this alliance,” said Bradley Feld, NCWIT board chairman and managing director of Mobius Venture Capital Inc. “We believe that only by working together with corporations such as Microsoft will we be able to address the need for a greater diversity in the sciences.”
Microsoft’s support of NCWIT reinforces the company’s commitment to address critical shortages of females in the talent pipeline, from getting young girls interested in science and technology through advanced education in computer science, computer engineering and related disciplines. In this global economy, a diverse workforce spurs innovation and is a key driver for U.S. competitiveness. NCWIT’s unique value proposition is to bring together the many disparate organizations, from government agencies to universities to industry members, that are trying to impact positive change. Through this collaboration, Microsoft and NCWIT are driving the effort to raise awareness of today’s changing workforce and the positive impact that women in IT have on the industry specifically and the U.S. economy overall.
The popularity in the U.S. of computer science as a major for incoming college students has plummeted. It has fallen more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. However, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the fastest-growing job categories projected through 2012 include data communication analysts, health information technicians and computer software engineers. The most recent numbers for U.S. employment in IT are the highest ever, up more than 5 percent since the peak in 2000. In addition, salaries in the IT area have continued to increase by a compound growth rate of 4 percent. And, in contrast, fewer than 20 percent of students who graduate in engineering, computer science and other technical fields are women. At the same time, according to NCWIT, the female work force is growing at a faster pace than the male workforce. And yet, the technology industry has yet to capitalize on hiring and retaining women in technical fields.
“It is a virtual certainty that all workers will have some sort of IT function as part of their job duties, and yet IT enrollment at local colleges is down as much as 60 percent, with enrollment numbers for women lower than in 1971,” said Jon Roskill, vice president of U.S. Marketing at Microsoft, to the audience of more than 400 students from Seattle University and other local colleges and high schools. “The need is greater than ever to find the most talented people to fill key jobs within the tech industry. With the changing face of today’s workforce, Microsoft is committed to diversity as a long-term business strategy and strives to be the leader in attracting women to careers in high technology. This is an exciting industry and we are passionate about meeting the challenges our business faces around pipeline issues. Together with NCWIT, we will help ensure that women have an equal chance for success in this lucrative field.”
Microsoft actively partners with universities and national organizations to increase the representation of women and minorities in computer-related majors by changing the image of computing and creating opportunities attractive to students. In the past decade, Microsoft has awarded 400 undergraduate scholarships totaling more than $5 million (U.S.). In 2005, Microsoft awarded $500,000 in undergraduate scholarships. Among those receiving scholarships this year, 11 of the 46 are women. Microsoft engages in a broad range of support, relationships with key community and industry organizations, and investments to help ensure that the best and brightest women are considering information technology as their major. Microsoft has invested millions of dollars in cash, software and resources to help stimulate increased interest among minorities and women in scientific and technical fields. In addition to the scholarships, Microsoft also offers annual internships, as well as Ph.D. and New Faculty Fellowship Awards to students and faculty around the globe.
The alliance with NCWIT is a small part of the company’s broader efforts to reach across the boundaries of gender and geography to make the sciences more immediate and relevant to a broader audience. NCWIT is taking the discussion to a national stage with a town hall forum in Washington, D.C., on May 17. This inaugural discussion is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and will tackle the subject of IT innovation and the role of diversity. More information on NCWIT and the town hall forum can be found at http://www.ncwit.org/townhall .