Grant seeks to get more high school girls interested in technology

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 27, 2011

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone CollegeNews Service
SALISBURY — It’s no secret that there aren’t enough women in the technology field.
But Livingstone College hopes to change that.
The college’s Black Data Processing Associates chapter, or BDPA, has been awarded a $500 grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology to raise awareness and interest in technology among high school girls. The grant’s official name is Return Path Student Seed Fund.
“We plan to go to area high schools and introduce female students to women who have achieved success in the computer field,” said Trevor Stuart, president of Livingstone’s BDPA chapter. “It’s very important for women to be more involved in the technology field.”
Stuart, a sophomore majoring in computer information systems, said his organization is scheduled to talk to students at Salisbury High School in November.
Dr. Kathryn J. Moland, chairwoman of Livingstone College’s Computer Information Systems Department, said the school is partnering with Salisbury High School’s Me Time Girls Mentoring Group to raise awareness about technology. Me Time focuses on self esteem, self awareness and self reliance, said Sakinah Riley, founder and advisor.
“If students are able to understand the world around them through money, technology and other available resources, that gives them better options for the future,” said Riley, an English teacher. “Many of our juniors and even some of our seniors are still on the fence about what they want to do after high school, and I think sometimes they just fall into the more popular jobs without really thinking through their plans. I hope the session with the Livingstone students will enlighten our girls and give them another option to consider for their futures.”
According to NCWIT’s Web site:
Women hold 56 percent of all professional jobs in the U.S. workforce but only 25 percent of IT jobs.
Only 11 percent of executives at Fortune 500 technology companies are women.
In 2009, only 18 percent of undergraduate computing and information sciences degrees were awarded to women, but more than 25 years ago in 1985 women earned 37 percent of these degrees.
Moland said she isn’t sure why there’s been such a significant decrease in the number of women earning degrees in computer and information science, but she hopes the $500 grant awarded to Livingstone College’s BDPA chapter will help make a difference.
“We must increase the number of women in information technology,” Moland said. “Information technology will continue to experience growth and require skilled resources to sustain the growth.”
Stuart, who applied for the grant in September with Moland’s help, was excited to learn of the award.
Other BDPA chapter members are Damein Greatheart, Kenneth Lennon, Milton Pearson and John Thomas.
“We’re very grateful to the National Center for Women & Information Technology for the grant,” Stuart said. “The award shows their faith in our organization’s ability to attract more girls into the technology field. We plan to work diligently with area high school students to ensure we fulfill the grant’s charge.”
The National Center for Women & Information Technology held its first meeting in 2004 and is a coalition of more than 300 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies and non-profit organizations organized into alliances, according to its Web site. The organization is housed at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus.
The Black Data Processing Associates was founded in 1975 to try to increase the number of minorities in the information technology industry. The first BDPA chapter was organized in Philadelphia, the second chapter was organized in Washington, D.C. and the third was organized in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1979, BDPA was restructured as a national organization, and there are currently more than 40 active chapters across the United States.