Doing something about the lack of women in IT

Universities band to push for more diverse IT field.

A group of 10 universities is uniting to try to diversify the IT industry in the U.S. by encouraging more women, minorities and disabled people to enter the field.

The Students and Technology in Academia, Research and Service Alliance is backed by $2 million from the National Science Foundation. It is using that money to recruit a diverse group of students into computer science and other IT-related fields.

Florida State University research associate Anthony Chow says that a falling number of foreign nationals and immigrants entering the U.S. IT job market has left the door open for more women and minorities to fill many of the 1.5 million new jobs expected to arise over the next 6 years.

One way that Florida State is attempting to lure students is by doing away with nerd images and emphasizing the coolness of the field through print and Web ads. The consortium is also uniting a group of students to spread the word and mentor others.

Participants in the effort, in addition to FSU, include Florida A&M, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Auburn University and others.

The diversity of the IT workforce is also being investigated by a Penn State researcher named Eileen Trauth, who is a professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology.

She found in interviews with 167 women working in IT in the U.S. and three other countries that women's career choices were influenced by a wide range of factors including gender stereotypes, family issues and job security. She urged employers to rethink one-size-fits-all policies that might work against women in IT.

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