by Laura Schmidt, MKE Tech Coalition & Rachael Wiley, NCWIT-WI …
The MKE Tech Coalition supports a number of initiatives committed to local tech talent development that reflects the community at large. As we embark on a new academic year, we would like to place a spotlight on a state organization operated out of Milwaukee focused on encouraging those with aspirations in technology to become part of a national network of womxn technologists administered by the WI Affiliate of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).
High School students apply for consideration each Fall to be recognized at the State and/or National level via the Aspirations in Computing Awards Program in the Spring. NCWIT-WI has an alumni database of honorees that dates back to 2012. Many of them are now early career professionals.
One might ask, what is the benefit to the honorees? Rachael Wiley, the new Director of Alumni Engagement for NCWIT-WI (who herself was an honoree of NCWIT-WI), had the following to share: “The application process as well as the recognition serves to foster an interest and confidence in technology and computing which encourages honorees to search out new opportunities to learn new skills and continue in a related field post high school. When students are recognized by NCWIT, they join a community of like-minded womxn technologists who are accomplishing amazing things in the tech industry. It is truly inspiring!” said Wiley.
The Wisconsin Affiliate values this community of alumni and has kept in touch with them since receiving their NCWIT award. Many have shared an update on their journey, where they are now and their recent accomplishments. Many are working for companies locally or in other parts of the county for big-name companies such as Microsoft, Google, GoDaddy and Northrop Grumman. Others are published authors, in the process of starting a nonprofit, or teaching younger students computer science in their free time. Many are attending college and majoring in a tech related field.
“All of these amazing honorees expressed gratitude for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program and have shared great feedback on how it has impacted them. It has given them confidence in themselves and shown them that what they have done and want to do with tech is valued. Many indicated it made them feel as though it gave them a voice in tech and felt motivated to keep pursuing their passion despite tech being a traditionally male dominated field. Recognition and encouragement goes a long way in turning dreams into amazing realities.” said Wiley.
NCWIT gives them access to various opportunities and resources, such as scholarships and internships, as well as an accomplishment to showcase on their resume. The national NCWIT alumni community provides connections with womxn who share in their interests and excitement for the tech world. It has also taught many the value in leadership, encouraging them to teach younger students following in their footsteps. Role models matter. All of these positive reflections directly speak to the value and success of the NCWIT organization.
Womxn who attend a college/university are also eligible to join the NCWIT community free of charge regardless of whether or not they were honored as a high school student. They are then eligible to apply for the Aspirations in Computing Collegiate Award.
The Coalition is proud to once again sponsor NCWIT-WI for the 2020-21 academic year. Please consider how you might leverage your network to encourage young womxn with aspirations in technology to become part of a national network of technologists administered and supported by NCWIT.