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‘Women in Tech’ creates a culture of empowerment

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of Information Sciences and Technology hosted the third annual Women in Technology event on March 15,

— The College of Information Sciences and Technology hosted the third annual Women in Technology event on March 15, aimed at closing the gender gap in the technology industry and celebrating the accomplishments of women in the college.More than 140 students, alumni, faculty and staff came together at the Nittany Lion Inn to honor some of the newest members of the IST community — the women who have been accepted into the college as students for the fall 2019 semester.“Nationally, the technology field is struggling to recruit and retain women in the industry,” said Allie Ellison, assistant director of undergraduate recruiting in IST.

“The Women in Technology event helps our incoming female students build and foster vital relationships that they can then lean on when they encounter challenges, or uplift them as they celebrate achievements throughout their college career.”She added, “It is important for us to empower our female students now, long before the first week of classes, so that when they do arrive on campus they arrive with confidence, motivation and support to hit the ground running.”According to the National Center for Women in Information Technology, just 19 percent of computer and information sciences bachelor’s degree recipients in 2016 were women. The event is one in a series of initiatives the college is employing to build community, provide leadership opportunities, and helping women advance their careers in the field.
“The information sciences and technology field has an extraordinary power to help us solve real-world problems,” said Ellison. “A computer or data point alone cannot change the world.It takes people to put it into action. We need to develop a diverse and inclusive talent pool that takes into account different perspectives in the problem-solving approach to determine the best solutions and implement the life-changing technologies that impact all of us.”Darah Kirstein, Penn State class of 2007 and vice president of technology product management at BNY Mellon, delivered the keynote address at the dinner. She was named a “Woman of Influence” by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2018.“I want to congratulate every single one of you for being here, and for choosing a career in technology, because you are part of the solution,” she said to the young women in attendance, noting the gender gap in the industry.“Tomorrow belongs to you,” she added.

In addition to the dinner program and reception, the accepted students participated in an escape-room activity where they split into teams, were presented with a number of clues, and were challenged to crack the code of a hypothetical cybersecurity hack that compromised a top-secret Berkey Creamery recipe.Through the exercise, the students networked and built relationships, as well as got an introduction to the team-building activities that serve as a foundation in the College of IST curriculum.

“It was important to me to meet other incoming freshmen, faculty, staff and current students because they gave me an amazing look at my future and how it will hopefully be,” said incoming student Sarah Hochberg. “I had a chance to talk to other girls in my position and to alumni and current students to hear what they are doing and what they hope their future will be like.”“To me, the true success in our program is seeing the young women’s confidence grow as they built their network of support,” Ellison concluded. “We created a culture of empowerment, and it is already showing.”

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