AUSTIN, Texas—The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a professor in the School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin a $1 million grant to ensure that women’s perspectives and skills are fully represented in the world of information technology, particularly in terms of innovation and development.

The grant is part of a larger $9 million award to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). School of Information Research Associate Professor Lecia Barker is a Senior Research Scientist for NCWIT and is co-principal investigator of the grant.

“Women made up less than 25% of the computing-related workforce in 2009 and they leave it at twice the rate of their male peers – a higher rate than in other science and engineering fields,” said Barker.

“Underutilizing the human capital of women and under-represented minorities in this critical workforce is damaging both to the nation and to those left out, as their chances of entering one of these fastest-growing and highest-paying careers are small.” Although some progress has been made as of 2011, the current postsecondary graduation rates in computing disciplines will fill less than a third of the projected 1.4 million technology and computing jobs projected for 2018.

“The vision of a truly inclusive information society cannot be realized until we ensure the full participation of all citizens,” said Andrew Dillon, dean of the School of Information. “Lecia’s work is at the forefront of efforts to provide working solutions to known problems in attracting women into the information and computing disciplines and keeping them there. It is an example of our School’s ongoing commitment to shape a better information world for all."

Barker’s focus is on maintaining a strong knowledge base of leading-edge research and practices for recruiting, retaining, and raising awareness about girls and women in technology. She will synthesize existing research studies, collect and analyze data, and build a community of researchers to conduct original studies.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit change leader network of more than 300 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women's participation in IT and computing.

In addition to this grant, Barker has also been awarded $187,000 to help engineering and computing fields with the lowest graduation rates of women at the bachelor’s level to attract a larger pool of women and retain them through graduation. This is part of a larger $2.5 million award to the University of Colorado, University of Virginia, and University of Washington.

Sam Burns
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