Virginia Tech's Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering is one of the new participants in the National Center for Women and Information Technology program called Pacesetters, a fast-track program that seeks to radically increase the number of women in technology and computing.

"We are excited to be participating in the center's Pacesetters program to increase the numbers of net new women in computing. From 2009 to 2011, computer science at Virginia Tech has doubled the number of female computer science majors," said Barbara Ryder, the J. Byron Maupin Professor of Engineering and the department head of computer science.

"We will continue to grow the percentage of our female majors and minors through proactive high school and first-year college of engineering student recruiting and through our participation in the Virginia -- Washington, D.C., Aspirations in Computing Awards. We will retain these students through opportunities for meaningful co-curricular activities, including possible attendance at the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing and the Association for Computing Machinery Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing," Ryder added.

Pacesetters is a two-year program in which senior leaders from companies and universities publicly commit to increasing the number of women in the U.S. computing and technology workforce. Participants use innovative recruitment and retention methods to tap new talent pools and introduce interventions for those at risk of leaving, with the goal of bringing significant "net new" women to their organizations. The National Science Foundation, Google, and Qualcomm sponsor this program.

Currently women hold only 25 percent of all computing-related occupations in the U.S. and comprise just 18 percent of all computing and information sciences degrees earned at U.S. institutions. Statistics show that more than half or 56 percent of technical women leave their jobs at the mid-career level, when their loss is most costly to companies. Additionally, research has found that women's increased participation has been tied to higher profits, better return on investment, and more innovative teams. With an estimated 1.4 million technology jobs being added to the workforce by 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, women represent a valuable, untapped talent pool.

The new cohort of Pacesetters kicks off its two-year commitment with a meeting at the University of California at Santa Cruz on February 25, 2013. Among the corporations that will be participating are: Cisco Systems, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Symantec.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 350 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women's participation in IT and computing. NCWIT helps organizations recruit, retain, and advance women from K-12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers. NCWIT provides statistics, research, best practices and a national voice for the increased participation of girls and women in IT and computing. For information, email Jenny Slade or call 303-735-6600.

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