Computer Sciences Program for High School Women Addresses Gender Equity in Technology and Computing

July 17, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — About 60 high school women from across Texas will attend the sixth annual First Bytes Residential Summer Program, created by the Department of Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin to enhance gender equity in technology and computing fields.

During the program, which takes place from July 20-26, the women will live on campus with adult female advisers who hope to guide, inspire and empower them.

First Bytes is aimed at identifying and overcoming attitudinal barriers so computer science becomes a viable career option in the minds of young women. The program seeks to dispel such myths as: computer scientists are "geeks," a balance of work and life is impossible and computer science is too hard.

Activities include career mentoring, programming language labs, logic games, computer dissection, tours of local technology companies and visits with computer sciences faculty.

On Friday, July 25, the department will host an Oscar party, where the students will show movie shorts they created using the Alice programming language.

Women represent about 60 percent of college graduates nationally, but representation in computer science has fallen to about 15 percent.

Corporations concerned about gender equity and diversity support the program with funding, gifts and participation in Corporate Chat, a luncheon where women in technology occupations tell First Bytes participants their personal life and career stories.

Sponsors this year include Amazon.com, Cisco Systems, Google, Lockheed Martin, Texas Workforce Development and Schlumberger. Google also gave $25,000 for the annual Department of Computer Sciences high school teachers' camp held in July.

For more information, contact: Lee Clippard, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 512-232-0104; Mary Esther Middleton, 512-471-9587; Tiffany Grady, 512-471-9523.