The UW Information School is minimizing the gender gap and empowering women with help from UW Women in Informatics (WINFO).

About 40 percent of students in the 2015-16 Informatics cohort at the UW are women. This is the highest amount of women to date in a single cohort, as well as the largest at 210 students.

More women are enrolling in the informatics program than ever before, minimizing the gender gap within the department to become more representative of the amount of women at the UW as a whole, which is 51 percent of the student population.

“It’s something that we’re proud of,” iSchool assistant professor Katie Davis said. “We want to make sure our informatics program represents the broader population and that it’s not skewed toward one particular demographic.”

A lack of women in the broader technology industry has been a persistent problem. At the iSchool, however, about 50 percent of the professors, faculty, and staff are women.

By having more women involved in technology, women can begin to change the industry to become more receptive for other women, as well as tackle issues facing women today with innovations in tech.

“Men and women have different experiences, and because of those different experiences, they just bring a diversity of perspectives, and I think it’s important to include all those perspectives,” Davis said.

Women in Informatics (WINFO), a registered student organization, has organized events and panels to reach out to women and other perspective informatics students. Last quarter, WINFO hosted its fourth annual hackathon as a space to empower young women with technical skills.

“[WINFO] has raised awareness of the Informatics program on campus,” Davis said. “And it also shows how many strong, impressive women are a part of the program and loving it, and how there’s a really great community of women in informatics.”

Davis credits a part of the recent surge in informatics applications to the outreach efforts of WINFO. The goal of the organization is to empower women without excluding other genders. The group is focused on women, but anybody who is interested is encouraged to join.

“When you make it equal, it’s not just benefiting women, but benefiting everybody as a whole,” incoming WINFO president Brittney Hoy said.

Hoy mentioned the importance of pursuing passions regardless of gender, to put the role before the gender, and that being a woman should not cap someone’s ability to accomplish a task.

“[When pursuing a tech career or major], just do it, there’s no reason why anything should hold you back,” Hoy said. 

The iSchool’s recruiting efforts have also involved the creation of a new course, INFO 102: “Gender and Information Technology,” where students learn about the history of women in the technology industry as well as the current state of demographics and gender.

“At the Informatics program, we want to make sure we are giving opportunities to all students,” Davis said. 


Reach Web Editor Andrea Chen at Twitter: @andyblueyo

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