Aspirations in Computing

2012 NCWIT Summit, Award for Aspirations in Computing Ceremony (courtesy image)

Through awards, NCWIT grows the universe of women technologists

One way to reverse the gender gap in computer science is to recognize the young women who are already innovating in the field.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology has developed an extensive national and local awards system to do just that.

NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing (AiC) awards program finds talented young women, distinguishes their work, and provides them with an array of resources to take it further, inspiring others along the way.

Each year AiC recognizes hundreds of students and educators across the country, giving their work extensive visibility. Winners take home numerous prizes, like scholarships, computing resources, gadgets and more. Award recipients also gain access to a long-term community that includes exclusive access to mentoring and tech-related opportunities.

“We know that a sense of belonging is a key persistence factor for young women who chose computing degrees and careers,” said NCWIT CEO and Co-founder Lucy Sanders. “Not only do these awards increase the visibility of young technical women and their educators, they also grant entry into an inclusive community of peers that support each other in advancing their innovative dreams.”

Boulder County local Maxine Harnett, a 2015 graduate of Peak-to-Peak Charter School, was named a 2015 Colorado Affiliate Award for Aspirations in Computing winner and national runner-up. Inspired to apply by her teacher Robert Hettmansperger, Ms. Hartnett says the award has been a boon for her budding technology career in many respects.

“It has opened a lot of opportunities for me,” she says, describing a summer internship with Boulder’s Zayo Group that she discovered through the Aspirations in Computing Community. In addition, Ms. Hartnett was recently selected to attend next month’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.

“Besides increasing my radar for these kinds of opportunities, the award was absolutely a confidence booster,” she explains.

Ms. Hartnett is currently a freshman at the University of Colorado where she is majoring in computer science and is part of the prestigious living and learning community for engineers. She is no stranger to recognition for her innovative tech work. Last July, she was one of five national winners of the Ant Man Micro-Tech Challenge, a competition for girls ages 14-18 held in conjunction with premier of the blockbuster sci-fi movie Ant Man, starring Paul Rudd.

The AiC awards are creating a national talent pipeline that universities and corporations can tap as they work to increase women’s meaningful participation in computing careers. The awards provide encouragement, visibility, community, leadership opportunities, scholarships, and internships to technically inclined young women.

Know a technically talented young woman in high school? AiC is accepting applications for its 2016 Aspirations in Computing Award now through October 25. The competition is open to all U.S. high school students with an aptitude for computing. Winners receive access to exclusive opportunities like scholarships and more.

Know a tech educator who is inspiring young women? Teachers, counselors, administrators, mentors, and other educators who encourage girls’ technology pursuits can apply for the Aspirations in Computing Educator Award. Winners receive a cash prize for professional development and more.

Know a college student who is seeking a greater computing community? AiC offers a college entry point into the Aspirations Community to technical women in college who weren’t previously exposed during high school.

AiC is supported nationally by Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Northrop Grumman, Qualcomm, and the Symantec Corporation, all of which are working to close gender gaps within their own hierarchies.