Georgetown Partners with Sit With Me

COURTESY CHARLIE LONG The university placed a red chair in Healy Circle this past spring to symbolize the seat women should take in technology development.

The university placed a red chair in Healy Circle this past spring to symbolize the seat women should take in technology development.

Despite rapid growth in the technology industry, there is only one woman for every three men employed in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics job.

The Sit With Me initiative hopes to turn that statistic around. Sit With Me, formed by members of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, highlights women’s role in technology and encourages them to pursue tech careers.

Georgetown University announced its participation with Sit with Me this April, releasing a promotional video that consisted of brief interviews with professors and administrators who encouraged female students to become involved in the tech industry.

Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Helen Karn, who worked as a volunteer for Sit With Me, said the campaign is much needed in a national academic environment where the field of computer science is becoming increasingly less diverse.

“The picture is not improving,” Karn said. “From the mid-1980s to 2010, the percentage of women [who pursue] computer science majors dropped from more than 35 percent to less than 20 percent.”

Interim Vice President for Information Services and Georgetown Chief Information Officer Judd Nicholson said that Georgetown’s work with Sit With Me is just one aspect of a long-term university commitment to decreasing the gender gap in STEM jobs.

This summer, the university hosted 60 rising junior and senior girls from local schools for a seven-week Girls Who Code immersion program. Additionally, Georgetown has put a lot of support into a nearly three-year-old women’s coding initiative on campus called We Code, formerly known as GU Women Coders.

“We remain committed to bridging the gap here on our own campus,” Nicholson said of the university’s efforts to aid women interested in STEM jobs.

We Code helps Georgetown women pursuing a computer technology career by teaching them how to code. The organization partnered with Sit With Me to help local female high school students receive training in STEM fields.

We Code executive board member Stephanie Kim (MSB ’17) said that learning how to code is beneficial to everyone.

“Coding skills are becoming increasingly in-demand by employers from a range of industries including marketing and finance,” Kim said. “Coding sharpens your analytical and problem-solving skills while fueling your creativity, and all of these qualities can breed strong leaders in any field.”

Chief of Staff to University President John J. DeGioia, Joseph Ferrara, issued a statement from the President’s Office in April that praised Sit with Me for raising awareness of gender imbalance in the field of computer science.

“Here at Georgetown, we challenge our students to engage the world and become women and men in the service of others,” Ferrara said in the statement. “This value is at the core of our identity. The Sit With Me initiative is an important way our community can raise awareness that women need a seat at the table in all STEM fields, and especially in technology.”

Vice President for Information Services and Chief Information Officer Lisa Davis said that she has high hopes for the movement on campus.

“I’m excited to see the Sit With Me initiative grow at Georgetown through the growing engagement of our community,” Davis said.

“We are so good at engaging and shaping dialogue here at Georgetown University, [and] I see this being an initiative where Georgetown draws on that strength to participate in and influence an important national dialogue.”

Throughout the coming months, the Sit with Me campaign will be visible on campus for various events such as Georgetown Day in April when a symbolic red chair will be displayed on campus to represent the seat that females should take in technological development.

According to Karn, the fields of technology and computer science would be greatly benefited by increased female participation.

“In the United States, we don’t ask why it’s good that women go into medicine, law, academia, politics or journalism,” Karn said. “We’ve seen the positive contributions that women bring to these fields. So to me, it’s a bit strange to hear people ask, ‘Why should more women go into IT?’ My answer is, ‘Why not?’”

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