In 2006, IWITTS was awarded a $2 million five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant from the program on Research on Gender in Science and Engineering to fund the CalWomenTech Project. Between 2006 and 2011, eight California community colleges received expert support and technical assistance to help recruit and retain women into technology programs where they were under-represented.The Project was highlighted by NSF in 2009 for demonstrating significant achievement and program effectiveness. The Project finished working with the CalWomenTech colleges in June 2011. IWITTS submitted a one-page summary of the CalWomenTech Project to NSF after the Project ended that features some of the key CalWomenTech results, strategies and activities.
Read on to learn more about the Project and the strategies and educator tools that have resulted in increased enrollment and retention rates for female students. You can also watch video clips of IWITTS Director Donna Milgram discussing recruitment and retention strategies.
The intent of this NSF initiative is to broaden the participation of girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. In particular, the extension services are to "provide consulting services to educators and institutions, to enable them to adopt and embed proven gender-inclusive policies and practices in pedagogy, the design of curriculum materials, student support programs, educator, and faculty development (NSF 2004)."
The CalWomenTech Project had three goals:
- Increase the number of women enrolled and retained in STEM education in the eight selected CalWomenTech community colleges.
- Institutionalize gender equity strategies in each participating college to make sure that the successful recruitment and retention strategies are used beyond the life of the project.
- Illustrate to the California and national community college system that STEM gender equity strategies increase recruitment and retention of women in STEM courses through both state and national dissemination of the project.
The CalWomenTech Project embodied two core beliefs of the IWITTS organization:
- The vast majority of educators are eager to recruit and retain women in STEM; however, they don't know how and lack the time and resources to figure it out on their own. IWITTS believes that the more off-the-shelf, turnkey solutions can be provided, the faster the colleges will implement the program elements that CalWomenTech Project results show will result in successful outcomes.
- Change will happen faster and be institutionalized if it is supported from the top down. To this end, IWITTS' focus is not just on STEM instructors, but also includes the key leaders, staff and administrators of the colleges in a variety of functions.
Eight California community colleges were selected in a competitive process to participate in the CalWomenTech Project. Colleges targeted particular programs where women were under-represented on which to focus their recruitment and retention efforts and to collect data on the college's progress, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and welding technology.
Find out what recruitment and retention strategies City College of San Francisco implemented on their way to becoming one of the Project's most successful sites, how El Camino College found a way to extend their open lab time, the solutions Evergreen Valley College implemented to increase their retention of both women and men in their automotive program, and more. These college and program-specific case studies provide valuable insights into what individual programs did to work towards their goals of recruiting and retaining more women.
The two sites in the first cohort of four community colleges that finished the recruitment strategies within the recommended timeline had an increase of women in their targeted programs of over 50% in the first year. By the end of the CalWomenTech Project, six of seven community colleges had increased the average number of female students in introductory technology courses targeted by the Project. Five of the colleges achieved significant increases ranging from 21.8% to 46.3% in introductory courses. Each of the CalWomenTech colleges committed to certain recruitment strategies at the outset, such as finding female role models to use in role model posters, brochures, flyers and a dedicated website section for women interested in the program.
A major highlight of the CalWomenTech Project has been the improved retention of both women and men across the community college sites, which IWITTS attributes to classroom strategies employed by instructors -- strategies that have positively impacted female and male students alike. By the end of the Project, four colleges had increased the retention rates of both female and male students substantially. Two CalWomenTech colleges that saw some of the largest increases in female completion rates early in the Project, from 73% to 100% in 9 months (Evergreen Valley College) and from 81% to 100% within a year (San Diego Mesa College), also saw increases of over 20% in male retention. By looking at the college's retention strategic plans, the improved retention data and the results of the "CalWomenTech Survey of Female Technology Course Students" -- a survey of female students in targeted programs across seven colleges (n=60) asking which retention strategies they found most helpful – it becomes clear the primary strategies of the CalWomenTech Project have been classroom strategies.
IWITTS developed the Proven Practices Collection at the start of the CalWomenTech Project to bring educators a research-based blueprint for recruiting and retaining women and girls in the technology classroom. The collection includes journal articles, case studies, podcasts, webinars and other resources.
The CalWomenTech Learning Library provides tools for both students and educators. Educators can use our library to help students develop building block skills in technology, while students can use our library to gain resources that will help them improve the skills necessary to succeed in their occupational program.
IWITTS depends on its national advisory committee members for their support and expertise on every project, including the CalWomenTech Project. The CalWomenTech Project had two advisory committees during the course of the Project.
The CalWomenTech Project is funded by The Program for Research on Gender in Science and Engineering from The National Science Foundation - Grant no. 0533564