Q: Please tell us about yourself and the path that led you to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).
Bradberry: My parents, a software engineer and a meteorologist, always encouraged me to try computing-related opportunities both at school and out of school. At a young age, I discovered that I had a love for math and coding, and I tried out any opportunity available to me in these areas. While I chose to pursue a degree and career Communications (my deepest passion), I have always appreciated the exposure to computing; I developed technical and problem-solving skills that continue to be applicable throughout my professional development. As the Communications Director for NCWIT, I oversee all communications work including graphic design for the organization's marketing materials and print publications; publicity of programs, campaigns, and research; social media and newsletter messaging; as well as assisting the CTO with website maintenance. Prior to joining NCWIT, I received a M.A. in Journalism at the Newhouse School of Syracuse University in New York and a B.A. in Communications at Elon University in North Carolina. I have held several editorial positions with online and print publications since freshman year at Elon.
Q: Tell us about the National Center for Women & Information Technology: its creation (who created it and why) and its programs, namely NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing (AiC).
Bradberry: NCWIT was chartered in 2004 by the National Science Foundation to increase the participation of girls and women in computing. NCWIT was founded by Lucy Sanders, CEO, NCWIT; Bobby Schnabel, Dean of the School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University; and Dr. Telle Whitney, President and CEO, Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI). Before NCWIT was formed, organizations focusing on women and computing (K-12, post secondary, or corporate) existed mostly in isolation, without the benefit of shared best practices, effective resources, communication with others, or national reach. By bringing the organizations together, we are having a far greater impact than if institutions acted alone. Today, there are more than 650 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working as change leaders to increase women’s meaningful participation in computing.
NCWIT runs many programs, offering a platform for change leaders to unite in action. One such program is NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC), a long-term community for female technologists at each pivotal stage of their educational and professional development, from K-12 through higher education and beyond. Benefits to young women who become part of this vast network include: private invitations to virtual and in-person meetups; visibility for technical achievements; computing outreach programs in local communities for growing members’ leadership and entrepreneurial skills; hands-on activities for exploring computer science concepts; and exclusive access to scholarships, internships, and job opportunities. All of these benefits are made possible by NCWIT Alliance Members, AiC peers in the network, and adult influencers who serve as volunteers and mentors. This collective investment is making a considerable and sustainable impact on future technology and innovation by increasing women’s meaningful participation. Find out more at www.aspirations.org.
i. Since 2007, nearly 4,700 young women have been publicly recognized for their aspirations and achievements in computing and technology.
ii. Seventy-one percent of participants now in college report pursuing a computer science or engineering degree.
iii. When the awardees were asked to describe the impact of the award, they reported more confidence, awareness, and determination and less anxiety, nervousness, and discouragement.
Q: Can you please share a few words about NCWIT’s TECHNOLOchicas?
Bradberry: Co-produced by NCWIT and the Televisa Foundation, TECHNOLOchicas is a groundbreaking campaign featuring real-life Latinas thriving in technology as role models for young women and their families. TECHNOLOchicas shares the powerful stories of five Latinas from diverse backgrounds and environments who share a passion for technology and its power to change the world: Natalia Rodriguez, Jessica Santana, Madeline Martinez, Janeth Vargas, and Janet Barrientos. The five TECHNOLOchicas’ stories will be featured throughout the campaign in a series of broadcasted PSAs; online videos, profiles, and stories; social media; and live events with special appearances. Find out more at http://technolochicas.org/.
In this video, Eva Longoria introduces them as an inspiration, helping young Latinas visualize themselves with careers in technology: http://technolochicas.org/video-Eva_Longoria.html.
Latinas represent a vast untapped talent pool, occupying only 1% of jobs in the computing workforce in 2014. Yet, both technology occupations and the Hispanic population are exponentially on the rise. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts 1.2 million computing-related job openings by 2022. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics reports that Hispanic girls and women are currently one in five women in the U.S. and will comprise nearly one third of the country’s female population by 2060.
Q: In your opinion, what are the top 3 reasons for the low STEM participation worldwide of girls and women in general?
Bradberry: There are several barriers that reduce women's/girls' interest and their beliefs that they can or should study a computing field (whether they are interested or not).
1. In society and popular culture, STEM is portrayed and believed to be a male-gendered occupation: There are negative stereotypes about women's abilities, and girls/women are likely to see few others like themselves who are technical. These beliefs are often deep seated in unconscious bias, based on a lifetime of socialization.
Girls in IT: The Facts: https://www.ncwit.org/thefactsgirls
2. In formal education, where it is very rare that students are required to take a high school computer science class (compare this to biology, which is often needed for college admission and part of high school requirements -- if a kid takes a class and is successful, she thinks, "I like this and I'm good at it. I will major in it."). When it is offered, it tends to be an elective and competes with other electives like foreign language and art for the attention of parents and kids. On top of that, parents, teachers, school counselors, and school administrators tend not to know what it is.
3. The systems, processes, and environments for computing education and technical careers often lack inclusivity.
Q: How can we increase the number of girls and women in STEM nationally in the US and internationally as well?
a. A frequently underrated factor is encouragement — whether it come from parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, etc. — simple encouragement to pursue or stay in a field makes a huge difference when one is a minority in that field or when social norms subtly or not so subtly pressure folks to leave or never enter the field.
b. Make sure girls and women are aware of computing-related opportunities, whether formal or informal, and how computing skills relate to their interests. Research shows that students respond positively to solving real-life problems that draw on their existing knowledge and interests and that involve collaboration in hands-on projects.
i. How Can You Engage A Diverse Range of Girls in Technology?: http://www.ncwit.org/compugirls
c. Identify and mitigate unconscious bias, which can have a profound effect on the recruitment and selection process — from crafting and distribution of job postings to interviewing and hiring.
i. NCWIT’s Job Ad Toolkit offers tips for making job ads better: https://www.ncwit.org/jobdescriptionanalysis and https://www.ncwit.org/jobdescriptionchecklist. ii. Unconscious Bias and Why It Matters For Women and Tech, an interactive video, takes you through a series of engaging, interactive experiments that introduce the concept of unconscious bias and explain why this information is vital for technical companies to understand: https:// www.ncwit.org/resources/are-you-unconsciously-biased.
d. Work to change the system, not the woman.
i. For example, NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs recommends a strategic, sustainable approach for attracting and retaining women that focuses on revising educational systems for an inclusive experience for all students, as opposed to changing the students to fit these systems: https://www.ncwit.org/recruit-and-retain-strategically.