Closing the gap
While women have made strides in many STEM career fields, women are still largely underrepresented in computer science. Reasons for this often include a lack of computer science education in the early years of education, teaching approaches, and an unwelcoming and uncomfortable climate in the computing classroom and the workplace. And while there is a greater understanding of the issue, the number of female undergraduates studying computer science has dwindled since in 2005. In fact, women accounted for only 19% of all bachelor degree recipients for computer and information sciences nationally and held only 25% of the jobs in the computing workforce in 2017.
At the same time, there are significant gaps between the number of computer science related graduates and the number of jobs available. In Rhode Island, there are close to 1,500 computer-related positions available, but only around 450 students with a computer science degree graduate each year. The lack of skilled workers in the field represents a growing issue facing higher education and the future of the technology industry.
To expand the pipeline to fill these growing number of computer-related jobs and to close the equity gap for women in the computer science field, the University of Rhode Island (URI) is launching a Women in Computer Science Fellows Program. The program is designed to help attract and retain women in the field by providing them with integrated services and resources.
Supporting women in computing
We are seeking to substantially increase the number of women graduating from URI with a computer science degree by creating a positive environment where women feel a sense of belonging. We are identifying industry sponsors who are willing to commit $10,000 per year for four years ($40,000 total) to help make this possible for our students. Companies supporting Fellows in the program will not only provide invaluable opportunities for students, but will also build their corporate brand on campus and interact with fellows directly.
Benefits to Fellows
Students will be selected through a rigorous application process and those accepted for the program will receive the following:
- A $5,000 scholarship per year, which they can use to offset their tuition costs.
- Access to industry mentors so that they can develop the skills needed for success in both academia and industry.
- Access to specialized academic and professional coaching at monthly workshops. Fellows will receive guidance on topics such as resume building and writing, and building job interviewing skills.
- Engagement in a peer network. Fellows participating in the program will be placed into a cohort and will move through their first four core classes together. This network will help foster a sense of community and belonging among those participating.
- Opportunities to attend national conferences, such as the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.
- Access to research opportunities and hands-on experiences through capstone projects. Fellows participating in this program will work with industry sponsors to design solutions for real-world problems.
- Access to career fairs and site visits with local businesses, which will expose Fellows to an array of jobs and companies in the computing industry.
- First access to paid teaching assistant positions, so that Fellows can get additional experience working in a classroom and inspiring others in the classroom.
Benefits to sponsors
Sponsors of the Women in Computer Science Fellows Program can also receive the following benefits:
- Named program fellowships for students participating in the Women in Computer Science Fellows Program.
- Establishing a talent pipeline with students participating in the Women in Computer Science Fellows Program through ongoing interaction and access to our student resume book.
- Corporate recognition through print, web and media communications that extend to our global community, including on the Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) website.
- Specialized access to URI Computer Science faculty and researchers to discuss current research, technology, trends and opportunities for collaboration, all facilitated by the URI Business Engagement Center.
- Access to URI Women in Computer Science Fellows for the purpose of applying their skills to support your research and development efforts through capstone projects.
- Early notifications about and invitations to special events hosted by the Department of Computer Science program, including career exploration events, research showcases, and a special Women in Computer Science Fellows Program Event. This will include a sponsors-only event to interact with Fellows.
To learn more about the Women in Computer Science Fellows Program at URI, contact:
Katharine Hazard Flynn
Executive Director, URI Business Engagement Center