A national organization wants to create new opportunities for Pittsburgh women working in tech.
The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), which is based in Boulder, Colorado, just announced that it would launch a Pittsburgh chapter of its Regional Initiatives program this month with funding from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. Currently, the organization also has chapters of this program in Alabama and Michigan, in addition to its national programming efforts, with plans to expand to even more regions across the country in the future. The Pittsburgh program will partner with local leaders in education and industry involved with fostering involvement of women and girls in the local tech economy.
In coming to Pittsburgh, NCWIT will partner with the Pittsburgh Technology Council and other community stakeholders to bridge gaps in awareness, participation and mentorship for local technologists. In the past, regional programs have included efforts to develop the tech education pipeline or used counseling and workshops to encourage more inclusive workforce cultures.
“When looking to expand our Regional Initiatives, Pittsburgh was a logical choice given the widespread community support and solid base of computing programs NCWIT already provides in the area,” NCWIT President and CTO Terry Hogan said in a press release on the news. “We look forward to working with the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to expand computing pathways and opportunities in Pittsburgh to make a lasting impact on Pittsburgh’s computing ecosystem.”
Getting women into the burgeoning tech workforce here remains a big challenge. While women make up around 49% of all occupations in the Pittsburgh region, they only account for 25% of jobs in the tech industry. It’s a persistent problem beyond the region, too.
With the help of the Pittsburgh Tech Council and a regional coordinator for NCWIT’s programs, the organization plans to determine what exactly some of the root causes of this inequality are, and customize programs tailored to resolving those problems. A press release noted that the coordinator will both run NCWIT’s Pittsburgh programs and build relationships with local stakeholders to ensure the work is suited to local employees.
NCWIT isn’t the only group to tackle this challenge in Pittsburgh recently. Midwest-based organization getWITit announced renewed efforts of its Pittsburgh chapter and the addition of new members earlier this year, while WIT PGH has continued some programming and job support in the new year as well. Though collaboration across the groups hasn’t happened yet (that Technical.ly has seen, at least), each one’s activity is a promising sign that support will only grow for local women in tech.
“We are excited to partner with NCWIT, integrating their Pittsburgh regional coordinator role into our Pittsburgh Technology Council and Fortyx80 staff, to facilitate the expansion of their initiatives to empower women and grow the diversity of Pittsburgh’s technical ecosystem,” Pittsburgh Technology Council President and CEO Audrey Russo said. “Together, we will work to guide, influence, and prepare the next generation of Pittsburgh’s innovative workforce with a special emphasis on serving women and girls in the technology sector. We know this partnership will lead a tremendous impact in our community and we are proud to have the opportunity to work alongside such a prestigious organization.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-