In the five years since its founding, Indiana University Bloomington’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology has been working to remove barriers that prevent women in all fields from using technology to advance their education and careers.
Maureen Biggers, director of the center, and Laurie Burns McRobbie, IU first lady and chair of the center’s advisory council, gave the IU Board of Trustees an update on the center’s progress and plans for its future. The two women are co-founders of the center, along with Anne Massey, former Kelley School of Business professor, and Beth Plale, professor of informatics and computing in the IU Bloomington School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering.
“CEWiT is dedicated to helping close the gender gap in computing and informatics and also to ensuring that women involved in any field or career path have the skills and competencies in tech that are necessary for success in today’s world,” Burns McRobbie said. “And CEWiT is not just about supporting women; we’re reaching out to male students, faculty and staff as well to support them in their advocacy for better gender balance in tech. CEWiT has grown exponentially in five years, and it’s extremely gratifying to see the networks and relationships that are being formed through CEWiT’s programs.”
The center was conceived in October 2013 with a mission to provide programming that sparks women’s interest in technology, equip women with the resources to achieve their goals and spotlight accomplishments, opportunities and equity in all fields. To fulfill this mission, the center has been leveraging and serving student, faculty, staff and alumnae affiliates.
Each school on the IU Bloomington campus is represented in the center’s group of nearly 3,400 student affiliates, and 6 percent of these students are men. The center serves students by offering opportunities for employer connections and job shadowing, leadership development, research salons and more. The Empowerment Lunch and Learn Series offers discussion around topics like imposter syndrome and microagressions, and Saturday workshops give students crash courses in skills like HTML coding, Tableau, social media analytics and more. The center also boasts nine special interest groups for students including Women Who Code, Black Women in Tech, 3D Printing and Women in Gaming.
With nearly 750 faculty affiliates for this academic year, the center has roughly five times as many as it did after its first year of operation. Faculty engage with the center by attending workshops on topics such as teaching with technology or using Canvas; participating in faculty leadership opportunities such as becoming a faculty fellow or mentoring students in the Research Experiences for Undergraduate Women Program; promoting equity through initiatives like the Advocates and Allies for Equity program; and more.
Nearly 600 IU Bloomington staff members and more than 1,950 alumnae are also affiliates of the center. IU staff members, in partnership with the universitywide group IU Women in IT, can participate in programming on topics such as negotiation and unconscious bias in job postings or receive advocate and ally staff training. Alumnae affiliates host special trainings throughout the year, lead workshops at the center’s annual summit, and mentor and network with students as well.
“We have accomplished so much since our launch, and it is in large part due to the IU commitment to our work, our many campus partners and a dedicated staff of professionals, student interns, faculty – men and women – and staff all working together to connect, empower, engage, and promote women and technology, and equity,” Biggers said. “As far as we know, no other university has this kind of center that cuts across all disciplines with such a focus, so this presence helps make IU even more special.”
The center is beginning to engage in a strategic planning process to create a vision for the next five to 10 years. In addition to exploring expansion to other IU campuses, establishing a high-profile speaker series and developing an annual, national scholarly conference, the center hopes to evolve into a national hub for interdisciplinary scholarship on equity, gender and diversity as it relates to post-secondary technology education.