NCWIT – How to Create and Sustain a Women in Computing Group on Your Campus

A Women in Computing (WIC) group on campus can increase members’ confidence and enjoyment of their studies, help reduce their feelings of isolation, dispel common myths and stereotypes, and empower members to actively recruit and mentor others. However, establishing a WIC group can be challenging. Below are some suggestions

GET GOING

Engage a group of interested students and advisers:
You need a handful of committed students and at least one adviser who will commit the needed time and energy. To build interest, engage technical women at your school in discussions of their shared experiences and concerns. Motivate students on your campus by looking to WIC groups elsewhere for examples of the value they bring to their communities.

Establish a charter:
A charter gives your WIC group direction and focus. It communicates the group’s goals, expectations, and structure to others. A charter typically contains a succinct mission statement and establishes goals for the group. It also describes the leadership hierarchy and the requirements and benefits of membership. Charters of WIC groups at sister campuses can serve as examples.

Make the group official:
Registering your WIC group makes it an official student organization. Official standing legitimizes the time and effort student leaders invest in organizing group activities. It also may qualify the group to use campus facilities and obtain funding. Check with the office of student affairs on your campus for information on rights, responsibilities, and benefits of registered student organizations and on the steps to becoming one.

Form a Board of Officers:
A Board of Officers assumes primary responsibility for steering the group. Ascribing duties to positions helps distribute the workload. It also helps ensure tasks are performed on time and reduces duplication of effort. The Board should reflect the group’s diversity, represent a variety of stakeholder viewpoints, and recruit and encourage new members to assume leadership positions. The boards of existing WIC groups vary in both size and types of positions.

Recruit members:
Members are natural ambassadors to convey your group’s importance and positive impact. They can invite friends and classmates. They can also actively recruit at freshman orientation and in introductory classes; advertise for members on social networking sites, department websites, and on flyers posted in dormitories and around the building; and hold an open house with snacks and information for new members.

KEEP GOING

Get active:
Activities in the first year might focus on building members’ confidence and sense of belonging. But the impact of your WIC group will increase if it sponsors a broad range of activities — for instance, tech talks and “code-athons,” workshops to mentor local-area girls and minorities, and social events for more than just WIC members. A successful WIC group typically undertakes a wide variety of activities.

Affiliate with like-minded organizations:
To gain traction, work with other student groups and consider affiliating with a national professional organization. Engaging multiple campus groups in activities increases the activities’ impact, visibility, and likelihood of success. It also helps your members connect with others and may help expand your membership. Affiliating with a professional organization such as ACM-W gives your group instant recognition and connects it to sister groups at schools nationwide.

Create a public presence:
Your WIC group can create a website with information about group activities and meetings. It can leverage social media, which students can customize to keep members connected and informed. Posting your agenda and goals openly ensures that both members and non-members understand what the group does. “Low-tech” broadcasting methods, such as posting flyers in prominent locations across campus, are effective in drawing attention of non-members. Publicity should invite participation from all who want to support women in computing, not just women.

Recognize members for their accomplishments:
Recognition can take many forms: a simple congratulatory email, cc’ed to administrators, faculty, and peers; an article in a department or professional society newsletter; a posting on a networking website; or an award at a public ceremony. Recognizing members goes a long way to increase their self-esteem and confidence. It signals that their work is both valued and rewarded, inspires others to follow their lead, and enhances the group’s visibility and stature.

Pursue a variety of avenues for funding:
A WIC group does not require much funding at the start. Your department may spring for pizzas or snacks at key meetings. But you will need additional monies for such activities as inviting technical speakers or holding technology workshops. Companies may sponsor activities to get their names in front of highly-motivated students. Professional organizations also provide funding opportunities, expertise, and other resources that your group can leverage. Don’t be afraid to ask, but be respectful of other groups’ efforts.

Other resources you can use:

NCWIT – Recruiting for the Group

Recruit general members:

Current members are natural ambassadors to convey your group’s importance and positive impact. Have them invite friends and classmates. They can also actively recruit at Freshman Orientation and in introductory classes; advertise for members on social networking sites, department web sites, and around the building; and hold an open house with swag for new members.

In the fall of 2012, the NCWIT Academic Alliance conducted a survey of women students and faculty/staff mentors involved with student WIC organizations. Results of this survey on questions related to the recruitment of new members are shown below.

  • Email to new students, at orientation for new students, at campus recruiting events, flyers in the department
  • department mailing lists, facebook, etc.
  • via email
  • Advertising (Facebook, Twitter, yard signs, emails, fliers)
  • Up the Orgs, Posters
  • Internal and external recruitment events, e-mails, flyers
  • professors actively encouraging their students
  • Posters, the official email lists
  • Facebook group was huge help

Examples

Marketing
Facebook groups

Flyer/Poster
  • Recruiting/ Social event, co-hosted by Ohio State University ACMW and Brooksource.

Email

Emails are not an effective strategy for recruiting new members, inasmuch as most students are inundated with institutional emails, to which they do not give much attention.

Instructions for volunteers recruiting in classes

The following template can be tailored for an email to send your students who volunteer to visit a classroom to recruit new members. Permission from the course instructor should be obtained in advance. We find it works best if volunteers go in pairs and talk for about 3-5 minutes at the start of the lower division CS classes (programming 1 and programming 2, discrete math, etc.) about 3-5 days before the first meeting of each semester.

Hi MSU WIC Volunteers,

Thanks for volunteering to help with WIC recruiting – it’s really important that we get some new blood in if we want to keep the group going strong 🙂

According to my notes, you’ve volunteered for the following times…

PERSON: TIME, DATE, COURSE

PERSON: TIME, DATE, COURSE

PERSON: TIME, DATE, COURSE

The professors of these courses have given the A-OK for you to come and present. They also all requested a quick reminder email the day before, so if you could please send one that would be great — we don’t want them forgetting that you’re coming!

Also, some things to highlight:

– The WIC website! Please make sure to give the URL and show the site on the projector, if possible. Point out that all upcoming meeting information can be found here.
http://YOUR URL GOES HERE

– First meeting! DATE, TIME, ROOM. We’re having FOOD and PLAYING GAMES and welcoming new members 🙂
– WIC welcomes anyone interested in tech/computer science, boys *and* girls!

– We have social meetings, presenters from CSE-related companies, and we go on trips like MICWIC and Grace Hopper.

– We do service events as well, such as the TECHNOLOGY WORKSHOPS FOR GIRLS.

– It’s a great way to meet more people who may be in your CSE classes, and build relationships with faculty as well

– Maybe talk about your favorite WIC event or meeting (I always like to mention PANDA dinners!)

Let me know if you have any questions and thanks again!

OFFICER NAME

More ideas for recruiting may be found here:

NCWIT – Activities for Groups

Activities in the first year might focus on building members’ confidence and sense of belonging. But the impact of your WIC group will increase if it sponsors a broad range of activities. Following are some examples of activities shared by successful WIC groups:

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

  • Attending Regional and National Grace Hopper Conference
    • National www.gracehopper.org
    • Regional http://ghregionalconsortium.org/
  • Attending Annual Society of Women Engineers Conference
    • http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/
  • Volunteering for NCWIT Aspiration award
    • http://ww2.ncwit.org/award/award.volunteer.html
  • Field trips to visit Tech Companies
  • Career fairs
  • Resume Clinic
  • Mock interview sessions
  • Info sessions about classes
  • Study breaks and groups
  • Monthly tech talks
  • YouTube sessions
  • Panel discussions with speakers from industry and academia
  • Competitions
    • Programming
    • Security
  • Industry Day celebration

SOCIAL

  • Parties:
    • Holiday Cookie Party, Dance party, Pizza party, Green tea party
  • Dinner at advisers’ house
  • Social CalloutsMeet ups at Brunch, Luncheons, DinnersMovie night
  • Annual Fall picnic
  • Movie series
  • Computer Smash
  • Game Nights
  • Sleepovers
  • Cookouts
  • Potlucks
  • Ice skating
  • Raffles
  • Trivia game
  • Spring banquet during Women’s History month
  • Autumn Arts and Crafts
  • Diversity Banquet
  • Pumpkin Carving
  • Engineering banquet

NETWORKING/MENTORING

  •  Annual networking event on campus including keynote speaker,
    lunch, adjudicated student poster sessions, roundtable discussions.
  •  Past alumni speakers
  •  Successful current student speakers

OUTDOOR

  •  5K runs
  •  Camping Trips
  • White-water rafting trips
  •  Hikes

MARKETING YOUR GROUP

  •  Design group logo
  •  Designing group T-Shirt contest

OUTREACH

  •  Girl Scouts Engineering fair
  •  Visiting elementary, middle school, or high school students
  •  Science fair
  •  Aspiration award
  •  CSED week
  •  Local “red chair” event. (See example here:
    http://wme.engr.oregonstate.edu/red-chair-campaign)

FUNDRAISING

  • Apply for NCWIT student seed fund
  • Selling
    • swags
    • donated textbooks
    • T-shirts with school/organization logo

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

profile – Elizabeth K. Hawthorne

Elizabeth K. Hawthorne is a Senior Professor of Computer Science at Union County College in Cranford, NJ…
(more…)

Profile – Egan

Professor of Computer Science

Siene College

Email her

Visit her webpage
Mary Anne Egan, Professor of Computer Science and Chair, works on issues of underrepresentation in computer science. She is involved in the research of pedagogical influences on the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in this field. Since focusing her efforts on diversity issues in Computer Science, she has involved undergraduate students in the implementation of various strategies to improve students’ first year computer science sequence, served for two years as director of Siena’s Luce Foundation grant to provide scholarships for female STEM undergraduates, secured funding to allow many female undergraduate students to attend the international Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, has developed a course on Diversity in Computer Science, and has created an alternative programming contest for non-programmers (IMPACT) as a way to introduce high school students to computer science. More than 400 students have participated in the IMPACT program and other colleges and universities have implemented similar career exploration days and courses on diversity. Dr. Egan is also interested in the role of technology in improving people’s lives in developing countries. As a member of ACM-W’s Women’s Council, MaryAnne works with Data Aggregation between various initiatives.

Profile – Sheila Anand

Dr. Sheila Anand is a Professor of Computer Science at Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Chennai, India…
(more…)

Profile – Owens

Barbara Boucher Owens recently retired from the Computer Science Department at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas…

(more…)

Profile – Townsend

Gloria Childress Townsend, Professor of Computer Science, has taught at DePauw University for thirty-four years and chaired her department for six years.

(more…)

Profile – Loos

PhD Student

Computer Science Department
Carnegie Mellon University 
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
+1(412)268-3501

Email: sloos@cs.cmu.edu

Webpage: www.cs.cmu.edu/~sloos

Sarah Loos is a Ph.D. student in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research interests include logical analysis and formal verification of distributed hybrid systems, such as distributed car control and collision avoidance protocols for aircraft. She is a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellow. In addition to her role as co-editor of the ACM-W newsletter, Sarah serves as a student member on the board of trustees for the Anita Borg Institute. Her service to women in computing organizations began as an undergraduate at Indiana University, where she served as the co-president of the undergraduate WiC group. She is now an active member of Women@SCS at Carnegie Mellon, where she participates in several educational computer science outreach programs for undergraduates, such as the OurCS workshop (Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in Computer Science).

ACM-W Connections – August, 2014

Welcome from the ACM-W Chair

– Valerie Barr, ACM-W Chair

Welcome to the summer issue of ACM-W Connections. Our hard working communications team is taking a well-deserved break by putting out only one issue for both July and August. We really appreciate the incredible effort they have put in since we launched this newsletter in January. In this issue we feature a piece by Audrey Gendreau about the challenge of work-life balance that ultimately, and unexpectedly, led her to complete a PhD. We also highlight an article from the July issue of Communications about ACM-W’s efforts in Europe. We’ll be back on schedule in mid-September with information about new activities ACM-W will be working on during 2014-2015, the result of a wonderful Executive Meeting we had in May. Thanks for supporting ACM-W and women in computing.

News From ACM-W Europe

Don’t miss the article in the July issue of Communications of the ACM about European Women in Computing.

News From Our Contributors

In pursuit of a balance between family and self, Audrey Gendreau encourages women to take chances and assume roles that are uncharacteristic of them, in turn, goals that were otherwise unconceivable can become attainable. Audrey Gendreau shares her story about earning an unanticipated Ph.D. by making career choices that were otherwise uncharacteristic of her, and because of that, unimaginable goals became attainable.

Read the full article here.

Announcements

Would you like to contribute an article to the ACM-W Newsletter? With a distribution list reaching thousands of ACM-W members, contributing to the newsletter is a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and information across a wide audience. Submit a proposal for an article /submit.