Nonprofits Collaborate to Introduce More Women to the IT Industry

Photo courtesy Tom Liszka, Creating IT Futures Foundation

Nineteen women of varied ethnicity between the ages of 19 and 62 recently graduated from the pilot women-only IT-Ready program administered by the Minneapolis-based Creating IT Futures Foundation—the philanthropic arm of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

Launched in 2012 and supported by a network of nonprofit collaborators, IT-Ready is a training and career placement program offered at no cost to unemployed and underemployed individuals interested in entering the IT field. The program has produced over 250 graduates, says Sue Wallace, the foundation’s executive director for Minnesota, 88 percent of whom have passed CompTIA’s A+ testing—performance-based exams that certify foundational IT skills across a variety of devices and OSes. Graduates often end up working in technology organizations or IT departments at companies such as Health Partners, Medtronic, Medica and the University of Minnesota.

Moving the Needle

In an effort to introduce more women to the male-dominated industry, the foundation offered its first women-only program, held April 11-June 3, in Minneapolis. “The IT industry has such a low percentage of women and people of color, and we really want to move the needle on that,” Wallace says. “There are so many IT jobs out there, and we want people to know you don’t have to understand rocket science or have a four-year degree to get a job in this industry. If you have the passion, aptitude and good customer service skills, you can succeed in jobs that pay well.”

Since announcing the pilot program, the foundation has noticed an increase in interest from women for its other classes—50 percent of its applications now come from women, up from 25 percent. Additional women-only courses are under discussion.

“This is what diversity is about,” graduate Angeline Pabon remarked while receiving her diploma. “Looking around this room, we are the last thing people would think an IT person would look like, but we’re going to blow people’s minds. It’s not rocket science for companies to diversify; we can do it with the right resources.”

Fellow classmate Gabrielle Myers, who was working in retail when her job counselor encouraged her to move to “something bigger,” described the program as one of the hardest things she’s been through—but also one of the most rewarding. With multiple job interviews lined up before graduation, Myers said she plans to use what she’s learned to teach and inspire others in order to help build up her community.

Pop-Ups and Pilots

The Creating IT Futures Foundation coordinates pop-up courses and partners with similar organizations to provide its training in cities including Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

Two new programs will be introduced this summer:

  • PrepareU, a two-week boot camp held in both Minneapolis and Raleigh, North Carolina, that centers on soft skills such as interview techniques, resume writing and workplace behavior, and
  • Project Essentials, a Minneapolis-based course that focuses on business analysis and project management skills

Visit the Creating IT Futures Foundation website for more information and to find a class near you.

Holly Eamon is copy editor at IBM Systems Magazine.

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