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April 4, 2003

Computer Mania Day Aims to Get Girls Excited about Technology

BALTIMORE, Md. – Three hundredsixth and seventh grade girls from Baltimore and Howard County Public Schoolswill spend a half-day with some of the top women in information technology(IT), learning about how technology can be an exciting part of their livesnow and in the future. Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space,will launch the four-hour “Computer Mania Day” program to be held at theUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) on Saturday, May 3, 2003from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Students will work in small groups,rotating between interactive demonstration sessions covering such topicsas fingerprint technology, designing the next generation of the Internetand the role of technology on Wall Street.  Students will also visitbooths where area high schools will present information and encourage participationin their elective IT courses and programs.

A parallel parent and teacher programwill complement the day by providing information about causes for girls'low enrollment in technology courses and what parents can do to encouragegirls to embrace technology.   Dr. Ride will provide the keynoteaddress.  Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools,will provide remarks relative to the IT education in the State's K-12 system.

Throughout the day, students willhave an opportunity to speak with women who are already working in IT andfemale high school and college students studying Information Technology.

Shirley Collier, CEO of ParagonSmart Technologies and co-chair of Computer Mania Day, said  “Thisprogram is an important first step in addressing the under enrollment ofwomen in IT.  The program will help middle school girls see that womenand girls interested in IT are not  geeks.  It's fun for everyone,it's intellectually and financially rewarding and it's cool.”

Computer Mania Day is based on aprogram that Ms. Collier chaired from 1995 – 1998 in Howard County. That program successfully increased the percentage of high school girlsin elective IT classes in Howard County Public School System from 20% to50%.  Unfortunately, since the program ended, those numbers appearto be slipping.

This is consistent with the nationaldata.  In spite of reports that the Internet gender gap is closing,women are still seriously under-represented as developers of IT, and theyare often not well served as IT users. Women make up 51 percent of thepopulation and earn more than half of all bachelor-level degrees awarded,but earn only about one-quarter of the bachelor-level computer and informationsciences degrees awarded in the U.S. – down from the 1980s when those numberswere in the mid 30's.  Business and educators alike are concernedabout what this means for long-term growth in the IT industry.  Decisionsare being made now by middle school students that will have an impact onthe workforce five to ten years down the road.

"Computer Mania will help young girlsto explore the use of technology and IT career options,” said State Superintendentof Schools Nancy Grasmick. “With exposure during this stage, girls willhave better opportunities to participate in high school Career TechnologyEducation courses and programs, especially those leading to high-skillcareers."

Research shows that the IT gendergap opens as early as the middle school years, when girls are most image-consciousand do not want to be labeled as “geeks” or “nerds.” Girls make up only14.3% of the students who take Advanced Placement courses in computer science,a key to success in IT-related fields at the college level.

”If we want to increase the numberof women in IT careers, we need to reach them when they're young—ideally,in middle school—and get them excited about technology,” said Dr. JoanKorenman, Director of the Center for Women and Information Technology. “ The good news is that we know Computer Mania Day can do this, and itwill be open to girls throughout the state.  This is our first yearso we will limit the numbers to three hundred, but next year we hope toinvite many more girls and their parents and teachers.”

Sheila Heinze, CEO of SM Consultingand the other co-chair of Computer Mania Day, has provided multiple staffto work on this event.  “As an IT business owner, I appreciate theimportance of a diverse workforce, but I find it difficult to find thewomen to hire.  If we want women to be full participants in usingand developing IT, we need to roll up our sleeves, work together, and makeit happen.”
For more information on ComputerMania Day, go to http://www.computer-mania.infoFor more information on women and information technology, go to http://www.umbc.edu/cwit

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NOTE TO EDITORS: High-resolution versions of the Computer Mania Day logo and press shot of Sally Ride are available.
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Click here for the Computer Mania Day logo.
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The Center for Women and InformationTechnology (CWIT) established at the University of Maryland BaltimoreCounty (UMBC) in July, 1998, seeks to address and rectify the above-mentionedproblems and to enhance our understanding of the relationship between genderand IT. The Center has a four-fold mission: to encourage more women andgirls to study computer science and/or information systems and to pursuecareers in IT; to enable all women and girls to use IT comfortably andknowledgeably; to assure that the richness and breadth of women's livesand concerns are fully represented and readily available on the Internet;and to foster research concerning the relationship between gender and IT.The Center plans to accomplish its mission through varied initiatives.Three projects already under way are the CWIT Scholars Program, the SpeakersSeries, and the CWIT web site, which ABCNews.com has called "the best resourceon women and technology on the Web."
 

Posted by dwinds1 at April 4, 2003 12:00 AM