WGBH and ACM Celebrate 'Dot Diva' Launch to Reshape Image of Computing for High School Girls

New Initiative Aims to Attract More Female Students to Fulfilling Career Opportunities

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We need to attract young women as part of a broad-based workforce that is equipped with skills which are fundamental to ensuring future U.S. economic competitiveness and prosperity.

Cambridge, MA (Vocus) September 23, 2010

The WGBH Educational Foundation and ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery) together with NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology) have invited hundreds of female students from all over Massachusetts on Monday, September 27, to celebrate the launch of Dot Diva, a new initiative to create a positive image of computing for high school girls dotdiva.org. The event, at Microsoft New England Research & Development, includes an interactive fashion show, high tech music demos, an artbotics art installation, and local college Fair. The Dot Diva initiative, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is intended to increase the number of college-bound girls who recognize the power and potential of computing and computer science to achieve fulfilling career opportunities.

“Our aim is to show these young women that computing is creative, collaborative, and changing the world,” said Julie Benyo, Director of Educational Outreach at WGBH. “Dot Diva enables us to offer young women a realistic view of computing that gives women the power to create and discover new things. It represents a two-year effort to create a “communications makeover” using extensive research and testing of messages that appeal to college-bound female students.”     

“With the launch of Dot Diva, we are helping to deliver messages that illuminate the rich diversity of careers in the computing field – not just in technology companies but in the many industries that rely on computing technology,” said John White, ACM Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer. “We need to attract young women as part of a broad-based workforce that is equipped with skills which are fundamental to ensuring future U.S. economic competitiveness and prosperity.”

The Dot Diva project was developed in late 2007 to address double-digit declines in enrollments for graduate degrees in computer science. Despite some improvement in these enrollments since then, the number of computer science majors is still not meeting projected workforce needs, and women are particularly underrepresented in this field. While many factors contribute to the low interest in computer science, misperceptions and negative images play a significant role. Project leaders determined that underlying image issues stem from deeply rooted beliefs among young people, including a feeling that science is too hard, and over-exposure to media stereotypes of socially isolated programmers.

Relying on WGBH’s unique marketing and communications skills as well as its direct experience in transforming the image of engineering, project leaders produced a wide-ranging national outreach and communications plan to spread the word about the rewards and benefits of a life in computer science. The team conducted a national online survey of more than 1,400 college-bound high school students, ages 13-17, whose overall gender and ethnic representation mirrored that of all incoming U.S. freshman. The research revealed a significant gender gap in the attitudes of these targeted groups toward computer science, and the initiative shifted its focus to concentrate initially on girls as a special target audience.

The event, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., is at Microsoft New England Research & Development, One Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA. For more information on the Dot Diva launch, visit dotdiva.eventbrite.org.

About WGBH Boston
WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster, producing such celebrated national PBS series as Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur and more than a dozen other award-winning primetime, lifestyle and children’s series. Boston’s last remaining independent TV station, WGBH produces local TV productions (among them Greater Boston, Basic Black and Maria Hinojosa One-on-One) that focus on the region’s diverse community, while WGBH 89.7 FM is Boston’s NPR Arts & Culture station, offering a rich menu of classical, jazz, blues, news programming and more. WGBH is the leading producer of online content for pbs.org—one of the most-visited dot-org sites on the Internet—a major producer for public radio and a pioneer in developing educational multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible for people with disabilities. For its efforts, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Oscars, Emmys, Peabodys and duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards. Visit WGBH on the Web at http://www.wgbh.org.

About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery http://www.acm.org, is the world’s largest educational and scientific society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

Contacts:

Virginia Gold
ACM
212-626-0505
vgold(at)acm(dot)org

Julie Benyo
WGBH
617-300-5459
julie_benyo(at)wgbh(dot)org

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