Omaha, Nebraska – She's fallen in love with it.
But three years ago, Katherine Slump, now a UNO freshman, had no idea what the field of IT even was.
"My journey in IT started by coincidence – an open spot in my sophomore schedule," Slump told a group of women donors a few months ago. "Even though I had no idea what computer programming was, I took a leap of faith and joined the class."
"Little did I know that choice would change my life forever."
During high school at Skutt Catholic in Omaha, Slump took several computer science classes in which she was the only girl. But in 2012, all of her hard work paid off when she received the Aspirations in Computing Award from the Nebraska affiliate of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). The award encourages high school girls to pursue their passions in IT.
Since receiving the Aspirations award, Slump has published two mobile applications, and each has been more successful than she ever imagined.
A grant awarded by Women Investing in Nebraska will be used to develop a pipeline to encourage girls and young women like Katherine who have an interest in technology. (Women Investing in Nebraska – WIN – is a program sponsored by the University of Nebraska Foundation's Women in Philanthropy subcommittee.) To see Katherine discuss her IT choice, please view the youtube video.
UNO's College of Information Science and Technology won a $76,750 grant from WIN in September to support its Women and Information Technology Engagement Link program – a volunteer organization of faculty, staff, students and community members that seeks to recruit, retain and support women interested in IT studies and careers.
Stacie Petter, associate professor of information systems and quantitative analysis at UNO, said the Engagement Link group understands the importance of not only filling the IT pipeline, but diversifying it as well.
"Our group has made it a priority to inspire more women to discover opportunities in IT and pursue studies at UNO's College of Information Science and Technology," Petter said. "This WIN award will help create a positive movement in Nebraska that will influence the global IT career landscape."
While more than 50 percent of the professional workforce is composed of women, they make up less than 25 percent of the workforce in technology fields. At the college level, only about 18 percent of graduates in technology-related majors are women.
This grant funding will help close the gap in the IT workforce by supporting four programs, including a camp for middle-school girls to excite them about possibilities in IT, creation of the Aspirations in Computing Award for high school girls to encourage them to pursue IT, scholarship awards to promote the study of IT at UNO and a mentoring program to support college students.
Says Katherine: "At times this was difficult for me. But receiving the Aspirations award gave me the reassurance that as a woman I could do whatever I put my mind to, even in a male dominated field."
Information Technology is a top priority of the Campaign for Nebraska, the University of Nebraska's current fundraising effort that's now in its final year.
If you would like to help promising IT students like Katherine, please consider giving online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.