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NSF Announces $3.25 Million Award

November 10, 2004

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $3.25 million to establish the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), a collaborative effort between universities, industry, government and not for-profit organizations led by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

The four-year award is the largest education and workforce award ever made by NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate.

The center has the ambitious 20-year goal of fostering equal participation for women and men in information technology careers, both in academia and industry.

“The lack of women in information technology (IT) reduces the nation’s technological workforce, hinders women’s economic advancement, and undermines the creativity and success of the IT industry,” said NSF division director Gregory Andrews. “The CISE directorate supports projects such as the National Center for Women and Information Technology to understand why so many women avoid IT careers and to increase participation by women and other underrepresented groups.”

Despite gains in gender equity elsewhere, women dropped from 37 percent of computer science degree holders in 1984 to only 28 percent in 2001, according to national data. And while women comprised 33 percent of information technology professionals in 1990, that figure was down to 26 percent in 2002. Yet according to Department of Labor projections, the number of high-skill IT jobs will increase by 35 percent from 2002 to 2012, double the growth rate for jobs overall.

While the center’s overall strategy encompasses the full education and career pipeline, the NSF award provides financial support for NCWIT’s infrastructure and a research emphasis on undergraduate and graduate education and faculty careers. Led by Robert Schnabel and Lucinda Sanders at Colorado and Telle Whitney of the Anita Borg Institute, the center will coordinate activities by scientists in seven organizations.

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.58 billion.

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