ImaginePittsburgh.com

“Don’t change the curriculum. Change the culture.”

That’s the approach of Lenore Blum, computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University since 1999. Rather than changing or “dumbing down” the curriculum, CMU established mentorship programs offering support and continuity from faculty.

Read all about it in the article by CNN Tech’s by Sara Ashley O’Brien, excerpted below.

cmu-women-qatar

“So many eligible women.”

That’s how Carnegie Mellon’s Lenore Blum referred to this year’s applicants for CMU’s School of Computer Science. Women make up 48% of incoming freshman this year — a new high for the school.

There were nearly 7,000 applicants for the program this year. It accepted just 166, which is about 30% larger than in past years.

The percent of women in the class far surpasses the national average of 16.5% for undergraduate computer science programs, according to the Computing Research Association’s Taulbee Survey.

Blum, who teachers computer science, said there was no talk of “lowering of the bar” at CMU to do so.

“Every year, we get more and more women. And every year, it seems like all the scores and stats go up. It is competitive to get into our program,” Blum said.

Related: Women coders do better than men in gender-blind study

That stands in contrast to the commonly-cited “pipeline problem,” which some in Silicon Valley use as the reason their companies aren’t diverse — that there simply aren’t enough minority or female STEM graduates.

Blum said blaming the pipeline is a “mistake.”

“You start with the group you have,” she added, noting that this year’s achievement reflects incremental growth over several decades.

While Harvey Mudd College credited a redesigned curriculum, for bringing in and retaining more female students, Blum and CMU have taken a very different approach.

When Blum joined CMU in 1999, she said there was serious talk of changing the curriculum to attract more women. “I said, ‘No way. You change the culture — not the curriculum.’”

Instead, Blum started Women@SCS, a mentorship organization for female computer science students. Unlike many organizations that are student-run, this particular group is led by faculty, which means there’s continuity even when students graduate. “You need the guidance and institutional support and the memory,” Blum said.

“Encouraging women by giving them a support system and a sense of community is a good idea,” Macallan Cruff, an 18-year-old CMU freshman told CNNMoney. “Don’t dumb down the curriculum.”

Cruff said she’s been pleasantly surprised to see a 50/50 split of men and women in her courses, compared to about four women in a class of 25 in her high school computer science class.

Related: Parents, yes! Your princesses can code

Cruff hopes schools will work to foster a sense of community for students at a much younger age. As a junior in high school, Cruff formed a “Coding Club” at a nearby elementary school to start introducing programming to girls in the third grade.

Blum said Carnegie Mellon is also focused on reaching students before they even enter college. It trains high school teachers on the latest programming languages, which encourages them to spread the word about CMU to their students.

She stressed the importance of having the administration put money behind the school’s efforts and not solely rely on grants.

Blum noted that Silicon Valley has been recruiting Carnegie Mellon’s graduates, an obvious move given that most tech companies are looking for talented candidates, especially female ones.

But she said it could compromise the number of women going on to get computer science PhDs. “I have concerns about that,” she said.

What pipeline problem? Carnegie Mellon nears gender parity CNNMoney (New York) / First published September 16, 2016: 10:13 AM ET

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Just a few tickets are left for the Monday, Sept. 26 ATHENA Awards luncheon! Get yours today at Athena-Pittsburgh.com

Eight women – five veteran managers and three emerging leaders – have been selected as finalists for the 2016 ATHENA Awards Program of Greater Pittsburgh. They will be among the many nominees recognized for their professional excellence, contributions to the community and mentorship of other women at the annual ATHENA Awards luncheon on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. The awards are presented by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development at the Westin Convention Center Hotel. One finalist from each category – the traditional ATHENA award, and the ATHENA Young Professional Award – will receive her respective award at the event.

The finalists for the traditional ATHENA award compose a varied and distinguished group. Each woman uses her leadership to create professional excellence and positive regional impact. The finalists are:

  • Audrey Dunning, CEO, Summa Technologies, Inc.
  • Kelly Gray, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, FedEx Ground
  • Diana Reid, Executive Vice President, PNC Real Estate
  • Tracy Vitale, Superintendent of Schools, Seneca Valley School District
  • Yvette Williams, Senior Patient Advocate/Program Manager, Allegheny Health Network/The Open Door, Inc.

The ATHENA Young Professional Award (AYPA) will be presented to a woman 35 years of age or younger who exemplifies the traditional ATHENA qualities, with an emphasis on being a role model. The finalists are:

  • Marteen Garay, Director of Entrepreneurship Programming, Urban Innovation21
  • Caitlin Green, Vice President, PNC Bank, N.A.
  • Katie Kopczynski, Marketing Analyst, Eaton

A complete list of nominees can be found at ATHENA-Pittsburgh.com.

Also at the luncheon, ATHENA officials will announce the recipient of the new Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship, named for the ATHENA program’s founder and retired president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce (an Allegheny Conference affiliate). The scholarship will be awarded annually to one woman age 35 or younger to attend, tuition-free, the Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women. The deadline to apply is July 29 for the academy session that begins Sept. 23. Learn more about the scholarship and the academy here.

Last year’s Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards luncheon drew nearly 900 attendees. That makes it among the largest stand-alone events of its kind among the 500-plus communities around the globe that present the award each year.

Tickets for the luncheon can be purchased online at ATHENA-Pittsburgh.com. Sponsorships are still available; contact ATHENA@alleghenyconference.org.

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Follow us on Facebook/AthenaPittsburgh and Twitter/AthenaPgh. #AthenaPgh

Learn what makes a winning ATHENA nomination at Athena-Pittsburgh.com

It’s that time again — time to recognize the extraordinary women in the Pittsburgh region who go above and beyond in their work and mentorship of other women. Nominations for the 2016 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards will be accepted (online only) until 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 30.

Taking its name from the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the traditional ATHENA Award recognizes a woman who demonstrates excellence in her profession, contributes to her community and helps other women to succeed. Last year’s recipient was  Lynn M. Banaszak, executive director at Health Innovation in Pennsylvania Disruptive Health Technology Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Josie Badger, Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership (PEAL) Center’s youth development director, received the ATHENA Young Professional Award for emerging leaders age 35 or younger.

Wondering how to craft a winning nomination? Check out this tip sheet put together by Pittsburgh Magazine Publisher Betsy Benson.

There are hundreds of ATHENA International-affiliated events presented around the world each year, but Pittsburgh’s gathering is one of the largest. More than 900 women and men are expected to attend this year’s luncheon on Monday, Sept. 26 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Interested in sponsorship? Contact sgaal@alleghenyconference.org.

Watch videos, learn more at Athena-Pittsburgh.com. / Look for updates under #PghAthena on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Bonnie Pfister

The event noted below occurred in the past. But that means ATHENA season is officially on!

Go to Athena-Pittsburgh.com to learn about the awards program.

Pittsburgh routinely leads national rankings for everything from its increasingly youthful talent pool, its tech startups, its affordability and its wealth of innovative restaurants. But how are women faring in these emerging industries? Is our region fully leveraging the competitive strengths of women?

As the ATHENA Awards Program opens its annual call for nominations, its host committee invites men and women who care about equity to the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11 for a lively discussion among women who are pioneers in disruptive innovation, emerging technologies and cuisine. NEXTpittsburgh Publisher Tracy Certo will moderate the panel, which includes:

  • Summer C. Fowler, Director of Cybersecurity Risk & Resilience at CERT, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Jennifer Krusius, General Manager, Pittsburgh + PA Expansion of Uber Technologies, Inc.
  • Priya Narasimhan, CEO & Founder, YinzCam, Inc.; Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Ling Wollenschlaeger, Founder and Head Chef of Pittsburgh Fresh LLC
  • Bethany Zozula, Executive Chef at Whitfield within Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

Tickets are $30 and include continental breakfast. The event is the annual kickoff to the ATHENA season, opening the doors for nominations for awards nominations. The traditional ATHENA Award, now in its 26th year, recognizes a woman who demonstrates excellence in her profession, contributes to her community and helps other women to succeed. The ATHENA Young Professional Award is geared toward emerging leaders age 35 or younger. Nominations may be submitted online between May 11 and June 30.

Named for the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the Athena Awards of Greater Pittsburgh are unique among regional honors for professional women because of the focus on developing the next generation of female leaders through mentorship. The awards luncheon, scheduled this year for Sept. 26, is attended by more than 900 men and women and is one of the largest ATHENA events worldwide. The awards are convened by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, of which ImaginePittsburgh.com is a program.

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries.

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Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Deb Smit

Gwen’s Girls is about female empowerment and bright futures, but sometimes girls just want to have fun.

At the organization’s North Side center, younger girls race around desks in a game of tag, braids flying. Older girls, dodging the game, carry their dinner trays to an adjoining room where they pull seats into a circle for a more serious discussion. Kathi Elliot watches as they settle into their evening routine.

“My mother set me up for this,” she says with a knowing smile. Indeed she did.

Elliot is the daughter of the late Gwen Elliot, a resilient woman who dedicated the later years of her life to lifting up the lives of the young women of color she saw cycling through the court system. Her mother understood all too well the challenges faced by young women growing up in broken, impoverished families.

Born and raised in West Mifflin, Gwen Elliot’s own mother died when she was five. Raised by her maternal grandfather and step-grandmother, she grew into a young woman of indomitable spirit, turning barriers to dust as she rose the ladder to success in a field traditionally held by men.

In the 1960s, Gwen enlisted in the military. From there she joined the Pittsburgh Police Department and was the first African American female police officer in the city. During her 26-year tenure, she rose to Sergeant and later Commander.

She was also a single mother who found the time to instill strong personal values in her daughter while conveying the importance of empowering disadvantaged young women to live healthy, successful lives.

“She was always involved in community work,” explains Elliot. “She saw so many young girls who were falling through the cracks in the court system. She was determined one day to retire and start an organization that addressed the lack of programming for these young women.”

In 2002, Gwen Elliot kept that promise to herself and founded Gwen’s Girls. The program for at-risk women started as an after-school program offering a safe space where young women could build relationships and self-esteem and gain the support of adults. “My mother believed that if young women of color had caring adults to nurture them in their young years, it would change their lives,” says Elliot.

More than 2,500 young women have participated in the program since 2002. The program measures its success in that 100 percent of the women not only improved their academic standing, none ever became pregnant or re-entered the juvenile justice system.

Upon Gwen’s death in 2007, the program continued to thrive but, due to the financial climate for nonprofits over the years, many of the services were decreased or eliminated. In August 2015, Elliot found herself stepping into the role her mother had cultivated.

“My mother saw things in me that I did not see in myself,” says Elliot who admits that she never anticipated one day leading her mother’s organization. Elliot has a doctorate in Nursing Practice from Chatham University and is a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

“Lo and behold, I’ve found that we as children often end up doing exactly what our parents intended for us to do,” she says with a smile.

Today Gwen’s Girls is in the midst of reinvention. Elliot is working to reinvigorate and expand the programming through an educational component that focuses on STEM learning. A STEM-based Makers Club for girls 8-18 years is planned for three sites: the North Hills, Clairton Middle School and Penn Hills. A second club, Pitt Bridge, a health-based science club, allows the girls to explore and research health issues of their own choosing using problem-solving skills.

The overall goal is to expand awareness of STEM-related careers, provide mentorships with local women in technology and science fields and reinforce the STEM concepts that the young women are learning in school.

“It really is their personal club,” says Crystalline Barger, resident social worker, who leads Pitt Bridge for Gwen’s Girls. “This is an opportunity to foster the math and science component and get the girls involved.”

While women continue to remain vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce despite the fact that they make up nearly half of the college-educated workforce, women of color from at-risk backgrounds suffer from a lack of exposure to these careers. They simply don’t have the same access to resources that women have from more affluent communities, says Elliot. “If we don’t train and teach them, they’re likely to become pregnant or unwed mothers,” she says.

Today Gwen’s Girls is in the midst of reinvention. Elliot is working to reinvigorate and expand the programming through an educational component that focuses on STEM learning. A STEM-based Makers Club for girls 8-18 years is planned for three sites: the North Hills, Clairton Middle School and Penn Hills. A second club, Pitt Bridge, a health-based science club, allows the girls to explore and research health issues of their own choosing using problem-solving skills.

The overall goal is to expand awareness of STEM-related careers, provide mentorships with local women in technology and science fields and reinforce the STEM concepts that the young women are learning in school.

“It really is their personal club,” says Crystalline Barger, resident social worker, who leads Pitt Bridge for Gwen’s Girls. “This is an opportunity to foster the math and science component and get the girls involved.”

While women continue to remain vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce despite the fact that they make up nearly half of the college-educated workforce, women of color from at-risk backgrounds suffer from a lack of exposure to these careers. They simply don’t have the same access to resources that women have from more affluent communities, says Elliot. “If we don’t train and teach them, they’re likely to become pregnant or unwed mothers,” she says.hat’s why the mentoring component–exposure to professional women in Pittsburgh who are working in STEM fields–is so important. Gwen’s Girls seeks to expand these mentorships in the coming year.

“Career exploration and STEM programs like those found at Gwen’s Girls are critical to helping girls and young women see the possibilities for greatness beyond their circumstances and beyond their dreams,” says Lynn Brusco, executive director of the Disruptive Health Institute at CMU who is an active supporter and mentor. “Changing the way that girls see themselves and the opportunities that are available to them can genuinely make a difference.”

Elliot agrees. “I feel humble and truly blessed to be able to give back to this spirit of womanhood,” she says. “We need to keep fighting for ourselves and what we believe in. We tell our girls that they can live productive lives.”

This article is part of the Remake Learning initiative, a multimedia partnership between NEXTpittsburgh and WQED Multimedia, Pittsburgh Magazine and WESA. Check out all the stories on Learning Innovation in Pittsburgh.

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Wondering about your career future? Check out  ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers, industries and the more than 20,000 jobs open now on our custom-built aggregator, updated nightly.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Bonnie Pfister

Click here for a video showing what others love about these jobs. 

Did you know that there are good-paying jobs available all over southwestern Pennsylvania for women and men willing to be trained — for free — while they work?

The unions representing iron workers, electricians, heavy-equipment operators and sheet-metal workers (those who build and install heating and cooling ductwork) are in great need of people who to construct the iconic buildings and vital infrastructure of Pittsburgh, present and future.

Not only is training free, you can earn-while-you-learn through paid apprenticeships as you shadow experienced workers (journeymen) who will help to learn the trade. Once you attain journeymen status, you will be eligible for pay raises and benefits such as paid sick leave, vacation time, healthcare insurance and more.

If college isn’t for you, or if you’re a mid-career person ready to transition into a job with better career prospects, then click here to check out the free training and career assistance of the building trades.

Check out these links for specific jobs:

You can also check out this video to hear directly from iron workers, electricians, operators and sheet-metal workers about their jobs.