Linda Hayes, Dean of Business & Workforces Development at Cañada College, and Stephanie Rodriguez, Dean of Industry & Technology at El Camino College, sharing strategies at the 2009 CalWomenTech Project Partner Meeting.

In 2006, IWITTS was awarded a $2 million five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant from the program on Research on Gender in Science and Engineering to fund the CalWomenTech Project. Between 2006 and 2011, eight California 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 NSF in 2009 for demonstrating significant achievement and program effectiveness. The Project finished working with the CalWomenTech colleges in June 2011. IWITTS submitted a one-page summary of the CalWomenTech Project to NSF after the Project ended that features some of the key CalWomenTech results, strategies and activities.

The CalWomenTech colleges targeted particular programs where women were underrepresented on which to focus their recruitment and retention efforts and to collect data on the college's progress.

The first cohort of colleges came on board in May 2007 and the second cohort in January 2008.

The first cohort from May 2007 includes:
The second cohort from January 2008 includes:

Site Descriptions

First cohort:

City College of San Francisco

City College of San Francisco's (CCSF) targeted program was Computer Networking and Information Technology (CNIT) with an emphasis on the Digital Home Technology Integration certification (DHTI). CCSF was an NSF project partner in the CalWomenTech Project and Carmen Lamha, the Chair of the CNIT Department, served as Co-Principal Investigator.

  • Biggest Success: CCSF's CNIT program reached its highest percentage of female students after 15 months in the Project in fall 2008 when they increased from a baseline of 18.1% to 30.1% (an increase of 65.7%) and in spring 2010 when the average number of women enrolled went to 33.2% (an increase of almost 82.9%). The college turned its attention to retention after its success in recruitment.
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: CCSF has a very large counseling staff with over 100 counselors. The Project key leaders made a presentation to all of the counselors at their monthly meeting and provided them with recruitment brochures and posters with the CCSF CalWomenTech Website URL. Distribution of recruitment materials by counselors was written into CCSF's annual strategic plan as a regular practice.
  • Retention Strategy Highlight: The retention rates of women went from 64.1% baseline to 78.5% on average and the retention rates of men went 6.5% during the Project. There was a focus on retention by all instructors. IWITTS held three retention trainings and brainstorming sessions over two years in which almost all of the 22 faculty members -- including adjunct instructors -- attended.

Case Study of CCSF's Success


Hear from the Colleges

"The CalWomenTech Project brings excellent resources to assist us in recruiting and retaining women in our technology programs. An excellent model that other community colleges would benefit from."

~ Thomas C. Mohr President,Cañada College

"The CalWomenTech Project provided us with research-based strategies for recruiting and retaining women that were new to us and will greatly enhance our ability to attract and retain women and assist us with improving our program overall."

~ Dr. Pierre S. Thiry, P.E., C.C.A.I., Principal Investigator, NSF Project, Instructor, Computer Networking and Information Technology Community College of San Francisco CalWomenTech Site

"The CalWomenTech Project is solutions oriented: our college has a very doable recruitment and retention success plan along with support on its implementation. We're confident that we'll increase the number of women in our technology programs."

~ Dr. Stephanie Rodriguez Dean, Industry & Technology El Camino College CalWomenTech Site

San Diego Mesa College

San Diego Mesa College's focus was Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The program had National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education funding to develop a curriculum coordinated with industry needs. This contemporary curriculum emphasized skills-based applications with an orientation toward practical projects and analysis.

  • Biggest Success: The GIS program had success in both recruitment and retention, increasing the percentage of female students from 34.6% (baseline) to 52.6% in summer 2008 and leveling out over the life of the Project to an average of 40.3% women. San Diego Mesa's retention rate for females went from a baseline of 81.3% to 100% for two different semesters and from 80.3% to 100% for males for three different semesters. By the end of the CalWomenTech Project, the average retention rate was 88.8% for women (a 9.2% increase) and 87.7% for men (a 9.3% increase).
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: San Diego Mesa's GIS program held a "Women in GIS" event in March 2008 that was attended by both women and men in conjunction with the college's Women's Studies Program and Women's History Month. They also had a focus on women during their annual "GIS Day" in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
  • Retention Strategy Highlight: At the 2009 CalWomenTech Project Partner Meeting, San Diego Mesa GIS instructors reported that they had learned in the CalWomenTech training about the importance of encouraging tentative female students. As a result, the instructors became more positive towards their female students and more accessible to them in class. Instructors came to understand that tentativeness does not necessarily mean these female students are ill-suited to GIS, but rather that they need more encouragement.

Case Study of San Diego Mesa College's Success

Cañada College

Cañada College in Silicon Valley is one of only two federally-designated Hispanic Serving Institutions in the Bay Area. Approximately 42 percent of Cañada's students are Latino. Cañada's 3D Animation and Video Game Art Program was the focus of the CalWomenTech Project. Game development is an extremely male-dominated field, the result of which is that most of the games developed do not appeal to females. Recruiting and retaining women in game development provides the opportunity to both increase the number of women in the field and the number of games developed that appeal to women and girls.

  • Biggest Success: Cañada College increased the average number of women in its introductory courses by 29.1% over the course of the CalWomenTech Project. The college also developed a one-credit online version of a 3D spatial visualization course that was taught for several semesters. The original class had 10 women and 5 men. The CalWomenTech Project connected Cañada College with Sheryl Sorby for guidance on teaching an online version of her class using her software and manual.
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: In summer 2009, the Video Game Art program increased female enrollment from a baseline of 23.9% to 51.6% shortly after Cañada College held its first annual Women in Gaming Conference -- an increase of 115.8%.
  • Retention Strategy Highlight: Development of an annual Women in Gaming Conference on campus where female role model speakers talk about their experiences working in the industry and give advice for women looking to break into game design and development. The conference has received outstanding written evaluations from participants.

El Camino College

El Camino College in Torrance, CA has a Women in Industry and Technology (WIT) Program, which provides career information, support and assists with job placement of women in the Industry and Technology Department to "Empower Women for Economic Success." The occupational focus was on electronics, welding and the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration program (HVACR).

  • Biggest Success: During the CalWomenTech Project, a full-time electronics instructor began administering short surveys to his students at the beginning and end of all his courses to help him communicate the resources available and identify students needing more support. After implementing the entrance and exit surveys, the instructor saw a 12.2% increase in his retention of female students (from 74% to 83% retained) and an 11.9% increase in male students (from 59% to 66% retained).
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: El Camino developed a "Women and Technology" video with female role models that it featured on its official college YouTube channel.
  • Retention Strategy Highlight: After seeing how administering entrance and exit surveys helped improve retention among electronics students (see biggest success), the El Camino CalWomenTech team decided to expand the survey program in spring 2009 to include the targeted welding classes. The goal was to further increase the college's retention rates as more instructors apply this and other proven retention strategies in their classes.

Second cohort:

Evergreen Valley College

Evergreen Valley College's automotive program in San Jose received a two-year grant of $250,000 from the California State Chancellor's Office to develop a Hybrid-Alternative Fuel curriculum for use statewide, and sought the help of the CalWomenTech Project to ensure women would be included.

  • Biggest Success: Evergreen Valley College had a baseline retention rate for female students of 72.7% that went to 100% for two nonconsecutive semesters. In the aggregate, the average female completion rate is now 82.5%, an increase of 13.5% in total. Male completion baseline was 64.5% -- also low -- and now the aggregate is 75.6%, an increase of 17.2% total.
  • Retention Strategy Highlight: The automotive faculty at Evergreen Valley College fine-tuned their instruction in the classroom to appeal to both female and male learning styles after participating in IWITTS' retention training.
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: Evergreen Valley College developed an entry-level course in 2009 open to both male and female students, "Auto Repair for the Lay Person," with all publicity featuring female role models. The intent was to enroll women into a course for lay people to stimulate their interest in automotive technology as a career and thus serve as a feeder course. Following the feeder course 9 women enrolled in the introductory automotive technology courses, the highest number ever recorded.

Case Study of Evergreen Valley College's Success

Irvine Valley College

Students who enroll in the Electronic Technology program may pursue either an A.S. or A.A. degree or a certificate which equips them for employment in the computer, software, biomedical, telecommunications, automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics fields. Or, they can continue their education at California State to earn a bachelor's degree in Engineering Technology.

  • Biggest Success: Irvine Valley College increased the average number of women in its introductory electronics courses by 32.6% over the course of the CalWomenTech Project. It was also the first CalWomenTech College to offer tutoring specific to their program area -- in this case electronics (utilizing a female program graduate). Most tutoring offered by community colleges is in the general areas of math and English. The instructors and a representative of the Learning Center report positive feedback from the students and requests to have the program-specific tutoring continue.
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: Irvine Valley College developed a high-quality, ten-minute recruitment video called "Women and Careers in Electronics Technology" that features program graduates, role models in the field, employers and instructors. The college developed this video entirely on its own and posted it to YouTube.
  • Retention Strategy Highlight: Program-specific tutoring by an advanced female student who sits in on the course with students and stays after class to provide tutoring.

Las Positas College

Las Positas College in Livermore connected with the CalWomenTech Project to increase the number of women in their automotive and welding programs.

  • Biggest Success: After two years of involvement in the CalWomenTech Project, Las Positas experienced a breakthrough in spring 2010 when the percentage of female students in their introductory automotive and welding courses went from a baseline of 5.4% to 14.3% -- an increase of 164.8%. By the end of the Project, Las Positas had increased the average number of women in its introductory courses by 46.3% from baseline. The college also successfully increased the retention of both female and male students. Female retention went from a baseline of 74.2% to 92.9% in all courses, and male retention from 88.2% to 94.2% overall.
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: A press strategy resulting in three local news articles and two television spots which were then placed on the college's website.
  • Retention Strategy Highlight: Following the retention training IWITTS conducted for each college, and at the beginning of their participation in the CalWomenTech Project, the welding and automotive technology instructors at Las Positas College implemented the classroom strategies, and the retention rates of female and male students increased dramatically.

Case Study of Las Positas College's Success

San Jose City College

San Jose City College's Facilities Maintenance Technology (FMT) program was developed in response to requests from industry partners. The program prepares participants to monitor, maintain and troubleshoot mechanical and electrical equipment in facilities from operating rooms to hotels.

  • Biggest Success and Retention Strategy Highlight: San Jose City College had a baseline retention rate for female students of 85.7% that went to 100% for two semesters. In the aggregate, the average female completion rate was 93.3%, an increase of 8.9%. Male completion baseline was 84.8% and went to 91.2% on average, an increase of 7.5%.
  • Recruitment Strategy Highlight: A pizza night for undeclared female students interested in the program.
  • Note: As of spring 2010 San Jose City College withdrew from the Project. Since the key leader and many other Leadership Team members had left the college due to job changes and budget cuts, unfortunately, it was not feasible for SJCC to continue in the Project.


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