Hands-on demo at the Community College of Rhode Island Career Expo

The WomenTech Project was a three-year effort in which the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology & Science (IWITTS) worked collaboratively with three community college demonstration sites -- the Community College of Rhode Island, North Harris Community College District in Houston, Texas and the College of Alameda in Alameda, California -- to help them increase the number of females enrolled and retained in technology programs.

The Principal Investigator was Donna Milgram, Executive Director and Founder of IWITTS and the author of the WomenTech Project Best Practices CD. Dr. Peter Woodberry, President of the Community College of Rhode Island, was Co-Principal Investigator.

Project Strategies

Project strategies included an institutional assessment and recommendations by IWITTS, and facilitation of a community college WomenTech Leadership Team, which provided leadership and implemented strategies in the areas of recruitment, retention, employer involvement and institutionalization of the Project.

The most successful site was the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), which doubled the number of women in its technologyprograms. In fact, the WomenTech Project at CCRI received a best practice award from the American Association for Women in Community Colleges in March, 2003. IWITTS drew heavily upon strategies implemented at CCRI for our Best Practices CD, which documents what we learned from this three-year Project.

At the same time, IWITTS worked on a national level to develop, an online community for women technicians to connect. This website still offers a unique showcase of women role models in 30 different technology occupations, highlighting their biographies and achievements.   The site also provides helpful links to resources and organizations that provide career services and support for women, girls and minority groups.

CCRI WomenTech Project Leadership Team

The site originally included several community features designed to facilitate peer support among women in technology and foster career growth, including:

  • WomenTech Talk, a listserv that combined peer support and expert career panels.
  • E-Mentoring, which connected women with mentors successfully working in a male-dominated career.
  • E-Job Center, where female-friendly employers could post technology and trades job openings.

As social media tools and community tools rapidly evolve, IWITTS plans to take key learnings from these pioneer efforts and apply them to future offerings.

Best Practices CD

Cheryl Upshaw, North Harris College, currently Technology Instructor at Joliet Junior College, IL

Another important component of this Project was to disseminate our results nationally. While the WomenTech Project Best Practices CD was originally intended as a print publication, the information clearly lent itself to a multi-media format, so we stretched Project dollars in order to create a CD.

This information-packed CD provides strategies for increasing and retaining females in your technology programs and offers concrete examples of how the WomenTech Project implemented these strategies in the community college demonstration sites. The five sections of the Best Practices CD -- Recruitment, Retention, Employers, Institutionalization and Institutional Assessment -- each stand alone, yet they also build upon one another, since Project strategies overlap.

The story of the WomenTech Project is really told within our Best Practices CD. We invite you to explore it -- you may find what we learned can benefit your own school or community college!