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As part of an effort to encourage more young women to choose careers in technology, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), George Mason University, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Bank of America recognized 157 high school women for their accomplishments and aspirations in computing and technology.
The virtual awards event was held on Saturday, April 17, and featured a keynote address by Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam. The first lady also announced the two national winners from the commonwealth—Eban Ebssa from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, and Athena Liao from William Byrd High School, Vinton. She further congratulated 64 award winners, 45 honorable mentions, and 48 rising stars.
The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is a program of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, a coalition of more than 650 universities, corporations and organizations dedicated to increasing the meaningful participation of women in computing. The award was created to acknowledge the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field, and generate visibility for women's participation in computing-related pursuits. Award winners were selected for their outstanding aptitude and interest in computing and desire to pursue computing-related studies of occupations.
The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program is supported by lifetime sponsor Apple, and national sponsors AT&T, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Google, HP Enterprise, Intel, Qualcomm and Microsoft with additional support from Motorola Solutions Foundation, Northrop Grumman and Symantec.
Virginia/Washington, D.C., affiliation of NCWIT was established 10 years ago by Mason’s Kamaljeet Sanghera, interim executive director of Institute for Digital InnovAtion, and Virginia Tech’s Libby Bradford. In past decade, the affiliation has worked with numerous industry partners and state universities and has recognized more than 600 students and 18 educators.
“If we want to build a diverse workforce for digital innovation, we must recognize young female students interested in computing, show them the pathway, share their success stories, and provide them with a community they can reach out to,” said Sanghera, who is a founding member of the Virginia Governor's STEM Education Commission.
Also in the virtual ceremony, Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, who is a Mason alumnus, announced the educator award winner. This year’s award recognized Mason’s Padmanabhan Seshaiyer, professor of mathematical sciences and associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Science. Two educator honorable mentions went to Jason Gabel from Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, and Jackie Keith from Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg. The Aspirations in Computing educator award recognized exemplary formal and informal educators who play a pivotal role in encouraging 9th through 12th grade students. The award recognizes these educators for their efforts to promote gender equity in computing.
The VA/DC affiliate of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is a collaborative effort of several Virginia state universities and dedicated volunteers from Bank of America.
"At Bank of America, we're passionate about and dedicated to encouraging young women to pursue their interests in technology,” said Katharina Mumford, Bank of America technology executive and NCWIT board member. “By partnering with local universities, we're building on our strong foundation to create a diverse and inclusive workforce."
NCWIT's work leverages programs from organizations across the country, and connects efforts to increase women's participation in information technology along the entire pipeline, from K-12 and higher education through industry and academic careers. Find out more at www.ncwit.org.