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Career Watch

By Thomas Hoffman
February 27, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -
Lucy Sanders
Title: Founder and CEO
Organization: The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Boulder, Colo.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that more than 2 million technology-related jobs will be added to the nation's workforce by 2012. But according to recent research conducted by the Information Technology Association of America, the percentage of women in the U.S. IT workforce has fallen by 18.5% over the past eight years. To help address this decline, Cisco Systems Inc. recently began a partnership with the NCWIT to increase awareness of educational and career opportunities for girls and women in science, technology, math and engineering. Thomas Hoffman spoke with Lucy Sanders about the group's work with Cisco and what they hope to achieve.

Lucy Sanders, founder and CEO of The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)
Lucy Sanders, founder and CEO of The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)

How did this partnership between Cisco and the NCWIT come about? Cisco is part of the NCWIT Workforce Alliance. In that role, Cisco is working hard to make sure that more girls and women are interested in careers in IT. In that regard, they wanted to do this awareness campaign, and we thought it was a natural partnership.

Any idea what percentage of the U.S. IT workforce is made up of women right now? It's about 29%, and it's on a downward trend. What's more alarming is the drop in enrollment in computer science programs, down about 18% [for men and women] at U.S. colleges and universities. And only 15% of high school students are taking advanced placement tests in computer science. Some companies say they feel like they're OK today in terms of female participation in IT, but they don't expect to be OK in the future.

What are some steps that Cisco and the NCWIT plan to take to increase awareness of career opportunities for women in IT? This awareness campaign is a really important first step. We're trying to get the word out to parents and educators that this is a wonderfully creative career. There's a perception that it's singular and geeky. But I know firsthand that it's an exciting and creative and socially relevant career. So we're sending out materials to parents and educators. That's an important first step. And there will be more. We really do need to mobilize parents to make them realize the importance of these career opportunities.

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