Members of the San Diego Mesa College Leadership Team accept an award recognizing their success in recruiting and retaining women in their GIS program at the annual CalWomenTech Project Partner Meeting.

IWITTS' Project Model for Success has produced positive numerical outcomes in the three national research projects we have spearheaded: the CalWomenTech and WomenTech Projects, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the New Workplace for Women Project, funded by the US Department of Labor Women's Bureau. What's more, the CalWomenTech Project was highlighted  by NSF in 2009 for demonstrating significant achievement and program effectiveness.

What's the secret to CalWomenTech's success? Read on to find out.

Project Model
Goals and Outcomes
Project Partner
National Advisory Committee
Evaluation Methodology

Project Model

Core beliefs

The CalWomenTech Project Model embodies two of IWITTS' core beliefs:

Leadership Teams

The IWITTS CalWomenTech Project model utilizes a top-down leadership team approach that has been used successfully in three of the organization's multi-site national projects.

In the CalWomenTech Project each college has a key leader and a co-leader, along with a leadership team with ten key members. The key leader, in many cases, is the dean or department chair that oversees the technology programs or is the dean of workforce development. The co-leader is often a key instructor.

IWITTS recommends that in community colleges the leadership team include:

The leadership team model ensures that the entire college will work together to make sure women are recruited and retained in technology and trade programs, and that the program will not be expected to take on functions outside of its normal duties.

The leadership team model also increases the likelihood that changes resulting from the CalWomenTech Project will be institutionalized and persist beyond the life of the Project. While IWITTS has seen positive results based on the individual efforts of an instructor or administrator, those results are usually lost if that person leaves the institution or their responsibilities change.

Turn-key Solutions


Each of the community college sites in the Project were provided with template recruitment materials and a "Women in Technology" website customized to the college. This way the college could spend their time on classroom and support strategies, instead of graphic/web design and developing marketing materials.

The colleges still provided IWITTS with identified female role models and photographs, and distributed the marketing collateral; however, this took significantly less time and work than creating materials from scratch. Community colleges are especially under-resourced in the design and development area, which is why IWITTS offers a Women in Technology Outreach Kit, featuring customizable templates for recruitment materials and web pages.

Similarly, in the classroom, the CalWomenTech Project provided colleges with as many off-the-shelf tools as possible. For example, the mission of the Learning Library is to provide building-block technology skills to female (and male) students who may come to class with less experience than their classmates. A sample library holding is a CD and workbook on spatial reasoning; NSF research has shown that teaching this skill improves retention of women in engineering (Sorby 2001). There are also tool identification resources and videos and games that teach math skills.

Furthermore, the CalWomenTech Project developed the following resources for the colleges:

IWITTS Supporting Activities

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Goals and Anticipated Outcomes

Project goals included:

Anticipated outcomes included:

The CalWomenTech Project successfully accomplished the majority of its goals and anticipated outcomes. The Project was able to increase the number of women recruited to targeted introductory technology courses at six of the seven CalWomenTech colleges that remained with the Project through spring 2011. Five of the seven colleges significantly surpassed the goal of a 10% to 15% increase in female students in intro courses with improvements ranging from 21.8% to 46.3%. Four of seven colleges had comparable male and female completion rates for introductory courses within 5% of each other, and all seven of the CalWomenTech colleges achieved a completion rate for females and males within 7% of each other in advanced courses. Significantly, an unanticipated outcome of the Project was that four of the seven CalWomenTech colleges increased the completion rates of both female and male technology students, and six colleges improved the retention of male students.

As soon the CalWomenTech colleges began to experience success, IWITTS started to work with the Leadership Teams at each college on institutionalizing successful practices and strategies from the Project. IWITTS' Leadership Team project model ensured that any changes and strategies implemented by the CalWomenTech colleges employed pre-existing college infrastructure and became a part of the college's regular practices.

The early success of several of the CalWomenTech colleges also allowed IWITTS to begin disseminating Project results and strategies to a wider audience of community college educators through conference presentations, online strategies such as webinars, and through face-to-face trainings conducted by IWITTS right away.

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Project Partner: City College of San Francisco

The City College of San Francisco (CCSF) -- one of the eight community colleges that received technical assistance during the course of this grant -- was IWITTS' partner for the CalWomenTech Project.

Carmen Lamha served as the Co-Principal Investigator on the grant. Ms. Lamha, Chair of the Computer Networking Information Technology (CNIT) Department at CCSF, served on the National Advisory Committee of the Project and oversaw CCSF's role. She provided consultation on the feasibility of strategy implementation from the ground level.

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National Advisory Committee

IWITTS depends on its national advisory committee members for their support and expertise on every project, including the CalWomenTech Project.

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CalWomenTech Project Evaluation Methodology

In collaboration with the Project's external evaluator, Evaluation & Research Associates (ERA), the CalWomenTech Project developed an evaluation methodology and plan to measure both quantitative and qualitative outcomes.  

Evaluation goals included:

The CalWomenTech Project understood the importance of continuous feedback, and built a Total Quality Management (TQM) approach directly into the Project with the help of its external evaluators. Community college leadership team members, instructors and female students were asked for frequent input via anonymous surveys and interviews about IWITTS' services and implementation of Project strategies. This allowed IWITTS to improve Project delivery.

In 2009, the Project conducted a survey of female students in targeted technology classes across seven of the eight colleges on what recruitment and retention strategies have proven most effective (n=60), from a total pool of 121. The results from the "CalWomenTech Survey of Female Technology Course Students" allowed the colleges to see which classroom strategies the women were currently experiencing, which ones they found most helpful, and which ones they would most like to experience going forward.

To IWITTS' knowledge, this is the first time that female students in technology courses have been surveyed on what retention strategies they have experienced in their courses and which ones they feel are most helpful.

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nsf-logoThe CalWomenTech Project is funded by The Program for Research on Gender in Science and Engineering from The National Science Foundation - Grant no. 0533564