Summit Promotes Women in Computing

Summit Promotes Women in Computing  In May I had the opportunity to attend  the NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) 2012 Summit on Women and IT, and what an amazing three days it was! The annual NCWIT Summit is a celebration of girls and women in technology, but above all, it’s an opportunity for leaders from education, industry, and government to explore avenues for recruiting and retaining women in IT roles.

For me, this year’s summit has not only been a tremendous resource for new ideas, it also provided a prime opportunity to promote Microsoft’s commitment to increasing women’s presence in computing. Microsoft has been a NCWIT sponsor since 2004, and an investment partner since 2006. In 2009, an additional Microsoft gift brought the company’s funding for NCWIT to US$2 million since 2005, an indication of our dedication to strengthening the U.S. IT workforce with an expanded, diverse pool of talent.

As further evidence of the company’s commitment, I am excited to report that we released our new Women in Computing website in conjunction with the summit. This site not only offers information about free tools, programs, and opportunities to support women in computing, it also summarizes our educational initiatives—which extend from grade school to graduate studies to faculty fellowships—and includes inspirational stories of women who are helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems through careers in computer science and technology.

The summit also gave me a chance to highlight our involvement in the launch of NCWIT’s Sit With Me campaign. This launch took place on March 9, International Women’s Day, and Microsoft marked the occasion by holding 50 events that spanned the globe, all celebrating women in computing. In addition, Microsoft Research labs around the world have begun to launch Sit With Me campaigns to grow the next generation of female researchers and inventors. Microsoft is also an active participant in the NCWIT Pacesetters program, in which senior leaders from corporations and universities commit to increasing their numbers of technical women.

One of the summit’s high points for me was assisting Microsoft Staffing Director Sean Kelly in presenting the first-ever NCWIT Pioneer Award, given to women who have forged new trails for women in computing. The recipients were Patricia Palumbo and Lucy Simon Rakov, two trailblazing programmers who helped the United States explore outer space and paved the way for women in computing. Read about their amazing careers.

The summit also recognized the Chicago-area recipients of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which honors female high-school students for computing-related achievements and interests. Microsoft Research is pleased to be a sponsor of this important program, and I was excited to meet two inspirational young women who want to change the world in their pursuit of a career in computing. They will both join us at Microsoft as interns this summer.

In addition, I was thrilled to join with Christine Alvarado (of Harvey Mudd College), Maureen Biggers (of Indiana University-Bloomington), and Margaret Burnett (of Oregon State University) to honor the 2012 recipients of the Microsoft Research funded Academic Alliance (AA) Seed Fund awards. This program provides AA members with funds to conceptualize and implement promising practices for recruiting and retaining women in computing at the higher education level. And since Microsoft is an active member of the Academic Alliance, my colleagues and I were busy participants in Alliance meetings at the summit.

One might think I’m exhausted after all these activities, but the summit has been so uplifting that I find myself energized. This has been truly an inspirational event. Now I just have to get some of that great Chicago pizza before I head back to the Northwest.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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