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Recruitment | Recruiting Women Technoblog

Tag Archives: Recruitment

Ask Donna Video: Girls and Robotic Teams

Hi, it’s Donna here with a new *Ask Donna* video blog,

In this week’s video, I advise a school on how to close the leaky pipeline of girls on robotics teams:

This week’s question comes from Vicki Mazur, Math/Computer Science Teacher at Classical Academy:

“Good morning Donna, I am mentoring 3 levels of competitive robotics; elementary, middle school, and high school. The elementary team averages 1/3 girls. The middle school team averages 1/4 girls. The high school team averages 1/5 girls.

While some of this “attrition” results from additional boys joining the teams, some of it is losing girls as other opportunities for extra-curricular activities increase.

This year, the high school team was initiated by 3 girls and 2 of them chose other avenues of afterschool activities. Two other girls replaced them so the final enrollment was 3 girls and 15 boys. The team, as a first-year competitor, placed 10th out of 75 in the region. Even with that success, enrollment for next fall looks to be more boys.

How do I increase attraction to the team when faced with the numerous non-STEM opportunities available to students in middle and high school?”

Watch this latest *Ask Donna* video to hear 4 things you can do to attract girls to STEM opportunities such as these robotics teams!

Then, 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!

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?

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.

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.

UC Santa Cruz, 44% female graduates in engineering in 2007

Recruitment 101: In 2007, a survey of master’s degrees awarded by U.S. engineering schools showed that the University of California, Santa Cruz, ranked third in percentage of degrees awarded to women. Of the master’s degrees awarded by UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering in 2004-05, 44.2% went to women. In 2006, women made up 17.2% of engineering students nationally.

I was curious – did UC Santa Cruz’s website have images of women? I went to the homepage for the engineering school and counted in the rotating photos four that showed both women and men, four that showed men only and two that showed women only. In most of the photos the women were engaged in using equipment.  Hats off to UC Santa Cruz for the many images of women engaged in engineering on their website and for having nearly half female graduates in their engineering program.

U Mass Computer Science Department Adds Photos of Women to its Website Homepage

I am happy to see that U Mass’s Computer Science (CS) Department added photos of women to its homepage. Out of seven photos–two now feature women! Unfortunately, the photos of women don’t show them working in the field with equipment as photos 1, 2 and 4 do for the males. The photos now show a woman writing on a board in a classroom setting and two women in an office setting. One of the recommendations IWITTS makes in our WomenTech training is that photos are taken of women working with equipment. Too often women are portrayed in “passive” roles in the workplace while males are in “active” roles.

A faculty member who was on U Mass’s Computer Science website redesign committee commented on my previous blog article and posted additional URLs where we can see photos of women in Computer Science. I applaud that U Mass CS has these specialized programs for women. They should feature them on their homepage. I do still think that the homepage needs to have an equal or close to equal number of photos of female and male students (equally engaged in hands-on activities). Many women wouldn’t bother to go past the homepage, if the images are all male (or almost all male).

Readers, please comment about other STEM/technical education school websites with photos of all male students AND if you know of a website that shows half female and male photos we’d love you to comment about that, too!

Using the color pink to recruit women and girls – should we?

My answer is a resounding yes! It works; research shows that females prefer pink–REALLY. So if you have the opportunity to run flyers in pink or use pink as part of a poster’s color scheme–GO FOR IT. Women and girls identify with the color pink. According to Wikipedia, “The color pink is often used to represent women or young girls.” The Boston Red Sox successfully used the color pink to increase sales of clothing to women coming to their baseball games. Pink baseball hats are the second best-selling color at the souvenir store. The pink ribbon is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink was chosen partially because it is so strongly associated with femininity (see Wikipedia article).

In 2007, Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling, neuroscientists at Newcastle University conducted a color-selection experiment with 208 volunteers between the ages of 20 and 26. On average, the study found, all people generally prefer blue, something researchers have long known. The study also found that while both men and women liked blue, women tended to pick redder shades of blue—reddish-purple hues—while men preferred blue-green.

Personally I love the color pink as you can probably tell from what I’m wearing in my photos. However, using the color pink to recruit is not a personal preference; it’s based on hard data. Have you used the color pink to recruit?

News flash – Girls and boys are different!

Recruiting Strategies 101: Which of these two educational toys do you think most girls would want to play with?

Lego Mindstorm


Both of the above toys were made by the MIT Educational Lab to teach kids computer programming, robotics and engineering skills.  LEGO MINDSTORMS® were developed first (naturally, sigh) and guess what? The lab discovered that while the toy was a big hit with boys, girls just didn’t care for it.  Now I know one of our readers out there knows a girl who loves LEGO MINDSTORMS® – however, if we are trying to appeal to the vast majority of girls, monsters just aren’t going to cut it – they’re a boy thing. MIT then realized they needed to develop a toy that interested girls and that’s where PicoCrickets comes in. Instead of monsters, girls can make a cat robot and program it to purr when someone pets it. Take a look at the video clip below that shows girls making a diary security system with PicoCrickets.

The only problem is that everyone knows about LEGO MINDSTORMS®, while very few people know about PicoCrickets. That’s why we’re around! Go to our webpage to learn more about PicoCrickets. You can see more video clips, photos and an explanation of how they work. I look forward to the day when PicoCrickets will come first and LEGO MINDSTORMS® second. Will that be in my lifetime?

What message are the photos on your school’s website sending?

Recruiting Strategies 101: If you were a female student who wanted to study computer science which of these colleges would you attend after looking at their websites?

University of Massachusetts, Amherst (edit: Since this blog was first published the University of Massachusetts computer science website has been updated with photos of females.)

City College of San Francisco

Female role models are critical to recruiting women and girls to career areas in which there are very few women. That’s why in our CalWomenTech Project we built a Women in Technology section for each school’s website that features female role models, women in technology associations and much more…

Are you interested in developing a website section for your school or program, featuring women in technology? We’ve made it easy for you.  See our WomenTech Step-by-Step Web Guide. We even give you instructions on finding female role models.

Quick Recruitment Strategy: If your school only has photos of males on the website for your program, change those photos right away and make sure there’s more than one woman! It’d be best if women are pictured in at least one-third, if not half, of the photo images.