Cal Poly looks to increase female students pursuing technology, computing

With the goal of increasing the number of women in technology and computing, Cal Poly is participating in a two-year National Center for Women & Information Technology program.

As part of the Pacesetters program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Google and Qualcomm, “senior leaders from universities and companies publicly commit to increasing the number of women in the U.S. computing and technology work force,” according to a university press release.

“Participants use innovative recruitment and retention methods to tap new talent pools and introduce interventions for those at risk of leaving, with the goal of bringing ‘net new’ women to their organizations.”

Women currently hold only 25 percent of all computing-related occupations in the United States and comprise 18 percent of all computing and information sciences degrees earned at U.S. institutions, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

Cal Poly is among 20 public and private universities and 14 companies, including startups and global corporations, that have signed on to the program. This latest effort is just one of several that Cal Poly has undertaken in recent years to support female students in technology and computing fields, said Amy Hewes, a university spokeswoman.

The university’s Computer Science and Software Engineering Department has sent female students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, the world’s largest gathering of women in computing. Last year, 17 Cal Poly students received grants to attend the event in Baltimore.

Cal Poly, said Hewes, is committed to attracting, retaining and engaging women in these fields through programs that create a sense of community for women in technology-related professions, whether it’s through mentorship opportunities or special programs.

“We really have very few women in these fields relative to what they could be contributing,” she said. “There are so many jobs in the future that will be opening up in this area of growth, and we want to prepare these students to take these places.”