Archive for 'Recruitment'

Ask Donna: WomenTech Educators Video Blog #1

My first *Ask Donna* video blog post answers a big question that I know a lot of colleges want the answer to:

Question: If we have zero female students in our STEM/CTE program right now—and it’s in a very male-dominated field—how do we change that equation and recruit more women?

I know attracting women and girls to STEM/CTE courses in these circumstances can feel very, very difficult; however, the good news is that it is possible, and I have some examples from schools where they did so in one semester. In fact, both schools ended up with more women than men. You won’t want to miss this video!

Watch my first ever video blog to learn about innovative recruitment strategies that go beyond traditional outreach.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

Talk with Donna 1-on-1 in a Women in STEM & CTE More Information Session: Sign up for a free call to talk with Donna about your college’s STEM/CTE programs and specific challenges.

The *Ask Donna* WomenTech Educators Video Blog: Have questions about how you can see more women and girls in your STEM/CTE courses? Need help overcoming a recruitment or retention challenge specific to your program and school? Now is your chance to get your question answered in a personal video from Donna Milgram—IWITTS Executive Director and developer of the WomenTech Educators Training System—in this new monthly video blog. Answering questions is Donna’s favorite part of providing professional development to help educators move the needle for women in STEM and CTE.

Want Donna to answer your question in the next *Ask Donna* video blog? Donna’s coaching is usually limited to WomenTech Educators Training school teams, so don’t miss this opportunity to *Ask Donna* your questions on broadening participation.

Ask Donna – Submit a Question Now

Stay tuned for a new *Ask Donna* video blog each month!

IWITTS Celebrates Its 20-Year Anniversary!

A note from Donna: Like Rosie the Riveter, “We Can Do It!”

I’m happy to share with you that IWITTS recently celebrated our 20th anniversary as an organization. So have we fulfilled our mission, to help educators nationwide close the gender gap for women and girls in technology? We’ve made tremendous strides, but there is still so much work to be done.

I have personally worked with inspiring educators like Barbara Dufrain, a computer programming professor who attended a WomenTech Educators Training. In less than a year following the training, Professor Dufrain increased her female enrollment by 62% and increased the retention of her female and male students by 45%.

Our Proven Practices Collection on the IWITTS website now contains over 100 journal articles and case studies with proven strategies from programs which have increased the number of female students in STEM programs around the country. In our own CalWomenTech Project, community colleges received expert support and technical assistance to help recruit and retain women into technology programs where they were under-represented. The Project was highlighted by the National Science Foundation for demonstrating significant achievement and program effectiveness.

The exciting news is that in the 20 years since I’ve founded this organization we’ve identified what works and we have more tools than ever to teach the knowledgebase to a growing number of educators and to support them in implementation. We now have real time training, online training, webinars, support for implementation, posters and banners with female role models and so much more! We have the secrets to successfully recruiting and retaining women and girls in STEM, and our retention strategies work for male students too. However, we aren’t reaching enough educators, administrators and counselors.

Just last week I conducted a WomenTech Educators Training for a very engaged group of IT instructors from across the state of California (and half of the participants were male – yay!). Yet, many of my recruitment and retention secrets were completely new information to them. Why are our secrets still secrets in 2014? During the break, a male IT instructor – who also works in industry – said to me, “I now understand the differences between female and male learning styles, wow, what a difference that makes to me both as a teacher and in my workplace.” My goal for the next 20 years is for our recruitment and retention secrets to not to be secrets anymore. We must expand our work and scale up so that our recruitment and retention secrets are not just held by separate and special programs for women and girls in STEM but instead are the domain of the mainstream education system at all school levels.

So I am asking for your help in expanding our audience. Please help us help educators unlock the secrets to recruiting and retaining female students by doing the following:

1) Send your colleagues this link to my free report: “How to Recruit Women & Girls to the STEM Classroom”

In this special report, you will discover:

  • The top secret to increasing the number of women in your classes
  • Examples of successful outreach campaigns and what made them work
  • Key messages female students need to hear that will get them interested in your STEM programs
  • And much more

Share this link:

2) Join the conversation and like us on Facebook at

3) Attend our next WomenTech Educators Online Training with your team

At the training, you’ll develop recruitment and retention action plans to increase the number of female students in STEM programs. Come as a team: the more educators you can train in your department, region, or state, the more likely you are to have significant increases in female students in your school’s STEM programs, as well as lasting institutional change.

Find out more about the Online Training

I’m grateful to the IWITTS community – thousands of educators from around the country – who have partnered with us and worked with each other to implement these proven strategies in their classrooms, programs, districts, regions and states. From adjunct instructors to college presidents, and counselors, advisors, administrators, and many others, I’m continually inspired by the dedication of educators who care deeply about ensuring that female students have unlimited potential to pursue rewarding, fulfilling careers in STEM. It’s up to us to ensure that the secrets to recruiting and retaining women (and men) in STEM won’t be secrets anymore.

Like Rosie the Riveter said, “We can do it!”


STEM, Girls and the Importance of Storytelling

By Guest Blogger: Amy Leask, Vice President of Enable Education

Amy Leask & Friends

For cultures like the ancient Greeks, arts and sciences weren’t polar opposites, but rather all part of the process of finding one’s way in the universe.  Astronomers, chemists, biologists and inventors didn’t view their subjects with just the objective, analytical eye of a technician, but also with the sensibilities of a poet and a historian.  They were interested in how things worked and how they could be manipulated, but they also prized the stories behind things, as well as how they affected the way people lived and thought.

A similar approach is being used by 21st Century educators to draw girls and young women into STEM.  Traditionally speaking, girls and women have been encouraged to think in terms of communication, relationships between things, and general context. Instead of focusing on the “What” and “How” of STEM, female learners tend to be engaged more in these subjects if the discussion includes “Who”, “When” and “Why”.  In other words, girls and women are being invited to tell the story of STEM, past, present and future.  Storytelling is just one of the many ways in which STEM educators can include more “female” ways of learning.

Here are a number of ways in which storytelling can be incorporated into STEM subjects:

  • Discoveries, advancements and innovations don’t just occur by themselves, but are the product of individual people.  Famous minds in STEM, both past and present, often have rich and fascinating stories around them, such as how people became involved, what made them notable, and how they were able to overcome obstacles.  Studying the stories of the individuals behind the theories and experiments gives a human context to STEM, which is something that female learners are conditioned to look for.  This practice is also beneficial because it tells the story of the many women who have been instrumental in STEM for centuries.
  • Along similar lines, learners are being encouraged to examine the sociological story surrounding STEM.  As no discovery or development occurs in a vacuum, it’s crucial to understand that STEM is meant to serve human need, and that it ultimately impacts every aspect of how people within a culture live and think.  This, again, plays into the traditionally “female” practice of learning by examining relationships.
  • Aside from STEM history, educators are also teaching specific theories and even doing experiments with the help of storytelling techniques such as storyboards, role-playing, and even the creation of digital media.  Imagine learning about the behaviour of a virus through verse, learning to code by role-playing, or writing an original song about how atoms behave.
  • Science fiction has always been an exciting forum in which to anticipate the future of STEM.  True, it has traditionally been seen as a male-dominated genre, but there are a large number of well-known female writers.  If all else fails, there’s always room for the next budding female author.

The inclusion of storytelling is just one part of STEM education becoming STEAM (with arts) and more recently, STREAM (with reading and writing).  Blending literacy and communication skills development into STEM benefits girls and women in that it validates skill sets that have traditionally been labelled as female, and brings a new perspective to these subject areas.  Moreover, storytelling makes STEM more inclusive, appealing to younger children and to male learners who might otherwise not be as interested.  Overall, learning to not just do STEM, but to talk about it, read about it and even be creative with it makes for well-rounded learners who are more ready to take on the challenges of STEM careers.

Amy Leask is VP of Enable Education and Founder of  She is an educator and author who believes that learning is learning, and that a complete education includes a little of every subject area.  Her professional interests include STEM/STEAM/STEAM education, 21st century learning, whole child education and educational technology.

As A Woman Who Loves Science, I Approve This Message

Just a quick note to share with you this little video developed in France to interest more girls in STEM (the video is in English). Its message is one I’ve worked hard to get across: More women in STEM fields means more products and services that take women into account! When women aren’t represented on design teams and research groups we end up with crash test dummies based on the male body and prescription pills that haven’t been properly tested on women. It’s crucial that women work in STEM, so that STEM fields remember to take women into account. We need more videos like this one in the US! Who is up to the challenging of making one?

Green Jobs: Not For Men Only

The bright spot on the economic recovery horizon is green jobs. Community colleges are partnering with Workforce Investment Boards to provide education/training to prepare the workforce for this new sector. But is it so new?

At a conference panel I recently attended, many of the green jobs being discussed were in power plant and construction-related occupations.  Women, who represent less than 10% of workers in these areas, have been trying to break in for years with little progress.  

In 1993, I collected data on the small percentage of women in U.S. Department of Labor School-To-Work sites and testified before Congress.  Wow, here we are 17 years later and green jobs – the crown jewel of job training – is likely to have less than 10% females. 

When asked how many women work in the power plant, the panelist replied, “One very hardy woman.”  We don’t need a lone “hardy” woman.  What we need is a unified program of change, similar to IWITTS’ achievements with the CalWomenTech Project.  We work with eight community college technology programs to develop their capacity to recruit and retain women.  The Project is being highlighted by the National Science Foundation for effective practices.

It’s 2010.  It’s just not acceptable to have women vastly underrepresented in green jobs and IWITTS can help.  I’ll be sharing our proven practices in an upcoming WomenTech Training on Feb 18/19 in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re offering great group rates, including a  3-for-2 special and discount for groups of 10 or more.   Hope to see you in February!

Funding for Green Jobs Training

 Green jobs are a priority at the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL). The department believes that strong partnerships “are the key to the country’s success in strengthening not just training programs but also employers and industries” and “that’s why the training initiatives at the Department of Labor frequently involve strong partnerships with community colleges, local businesses, and workforce development boards.”  

In fact, over $305 million in grants were awarded by U.S. DOL in 2009 to support training for green jobs.  And just this month it announced $100 million in Energy Training Partnership Grants and another $150 million in “Pathways Out of Poverty” grants to help disadvantaged populations find employment in energy-efficiency and renewable energy industries.  This month’s grants are part of a larger Recovery Act initiative totaling $500 million — the department expects to release funding for two remaining green grant award categories this year.

Community colleges are already collaborating with workforce development boards to take advantage of grant dollars for green jobs, and there is a good chance that U.S. DOL is looking to partner with more educational institutions in 2010. So keep an eye on the U.S. DOL website for more funding opportunities in green jobs training! 

Recruitment Solutions from 2nd Annual CalWomenTech Project Partner Meeting

Instructors, administrators and counselors from the eight California community colleges involved in the CalWomenTech Project came together a couple of weeks ago  to share their successes recruiting and retaining women to targeted technology programs and to problem solve as a group to overcome key challenges they are encountering. One of the issues is the current economic situation in California, which seemed relevant to our audience across the country, and so I wanted to share some of the great solutions our colleges came up with:

Challenge: Due to budget cuts, many colleges have had to cut faculty and classes even as their enrollment keeps increasing. Trade and technology programs are overflowing with people looking to expand their career options. Unfortunately, this diminishes the opportunity for women overall as many women hesitate to sign up for a technical class and lose their chance to register when it fills up right away. One of the CalWomenTech colleges had three women try to add a technology class this fall; they even attended the class for several weeks. However, they could not continue on because no one dropped the class during the drop/add period.

Solutions: When recruiting women, focus efforts on priority registration groups such as Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), athletes and fast track high school students so that the women will be able to enroll in classes that fill up quickly. Once you have women in the introductory courses, take time during class to register students for the next/another course in the program. This will act as a form of personal encouragement and ensure that female students who might be hesitant to sign up for another class will get a space.

Visit the CalWomenTech Section of the IWITTS website for more information on the CalWomenTech Project and the Proven Practices Library for case studies from the project (PDF).

Has your school seen an impact on recruiting women students during this economic downturn?

Recruiting: 9 Women in Auto Technology!

Last week we had the CalWomenTech Project Partner Meeting and our 8 community college sites presented their successes to each other. It was amazing, truly. What an incredibly dedicated group of educators, it’s a privilege to work with them. More on this to come.

At this meeting we also learned that one of the colleges, Evergreen Valley College (EVC) in San Jose, has 9 women in the introductory auto tech classes. EVC is a leader in auto tech with both a hybrid and Honda program and now the college is a leader on recruiting women.

Then this past Wednesday I and our Program Coordinator Daniella Severs spent 3 hours at Evergreen with the Head of the Auto Program, one of the instructorswho is a co-leader and the Dean of Workforce Development, revising the retention plan with the goal of ensuring that the women are retained.  

We used 100% of our brains for three hours to come up with some innovative strategies, as well as some standard ones. Each of these three men took responsibility for leading a piece of the plan which will involve others on the CalWomenTech leadership team.

What struck me was how deeply committed these men are to having the College’s female students succeed.  Auto technology only has 2% women nationally.  We need the men in the field to support women to ensure their success. We certainly have this at Evergreen. Personally I find it inspiring. 

We have many other committed men and women in the CalWomenTech Project, from time to time I’ll be bragging, I mean blogging on them.

Question/Answer: How Do We Improve Computer Science’s Image?

question markSee Wechie’s Comment of 8/21: There seems to be hundreds of separate initiatives to encourage girls to study computer science but there remains an image problem. How can we get an industry wide campaign going to improve the image of computing?

Yes, Wechie you are correct, there is a huge image problem. American Association of University Women’s Study, Tech Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age (2000) which you can download for free, documents the image problem among girls and many other studies have gone on to replicate these findings.

I would like to see one of the major computer giants – such as Apple or Electronic Arts – use their marketing savvy and department to team with a nonprofit (such as us) to develop a multi-media marketing campaign (YouTube, facebook, TV commercials, Posters) that could create a more positive image of computer science for women and girls (and men!).

Of course, we also advocate that schools help to change the image by showing female role models in posters and career videos — our womentechstore has many resources to help with this. I’ve personally previewed the videos we have and they are extremely well done. (Shameless plug). Now if we could combine this with a national campaign by industry leaders this could be the push that’s needed.

Where do I connect with women’s associations in technology and trades?

Recruiting 101:  Have you visited the career links section of There are links to many women in technology and trade associations—some of which have local chapters or an email list that you can access.   A few examples of what you can find include Women in GIS, Women in Animation and Women in HVACR .

How to Recruit Female Role Models!

Recruiting 101: The key to recruiting women and girls in a field in which they are under-represented is female role models.  You already know their numbers are small, so where do you find these women?  IWITTS did a survey in 2005 and found that among educators word of mouth was the leading strategy (86%), followed by connecting with women on the street (66%).  Respondents also found doing a newspaper story on their program effective! In addition, I’d recommend putting flyers up in your community saying you are looking for female role models in specific occupations.

What does following up with women on the street mean? I remember meeting a female telephone repair person in our office building one morning. I invited her into our office, explained what we did, got her contact information and a little bit of her background. She told me, “I’m the queen of DSL.” Another time, via a journalist I was able to track down a woman who had been written about in the local paper. She ended up testifying before Congress in hearings I helped set up for legislation on women in non-traditional jobs that I drafted on behalf of a Congresswoman.  (The bill was signed into law!)

These are direct recruitment strategies.  Even more effective in the long term is to recruit female role models via program partners.  Employer Industry Boards can place articles in employee newsletters advertising for role models and can provide paid release time.  Develop partnerships with Women in Technology Associations; they can become a pipeline for role models.  Self-employed women have more control over their schedules and may be found via your local chamber of commerce. Also, speak with community college and 4-year college instructors in male-dominated program areas.

Please keep in mind that women in technical occupations (rather than professional occupations) have less control over their schedules, make less money and may not be able to take time off during their regular workday. If they have to take time off from work and you can offer them a stipend that will help. Some will work evenings or weekends, making it easier to connect with them during the daytime if that’s when your classes meet.

The first time you try to find female role models, give yourself three to six months. If you recruit program partners it shouldn’t be as hard on the second go around. And the good news is that as women and girls enroll in your programs you’ll have your own role models to feature in any publicity about your program! If you or someone you know has been successful in recruiting female role models in a way I haven’t mentioned here, please post a comment and let us know about it.