GE last week hosted members of University of New Orleans’ new Association of Computing Machinery– Women Chapter onsite, treating them to a tour and information about the work that unfolds in the company’s Technology Center in New Orleans.
Founded in the fall, the Association of Computing Machinery–Women Chapter seeks to provide professional, academic and social support to women who are interested in pursuing studies and careers in information technology.
As in much of the science, technology, math and engineering fields nationally, women have been largely underrepresented in information concentrations at UNO. Edward Holmberg, UNO’s industry liaison for computer science, noted that in the fall of 2015, the number of undergraduate women pursuing computer science degrees was 56 compared with 255 men.
“It's critical such a group exists,” Holmberg said of the ACM-W, headed by student Ambyr-Shae Jarrell. “We would like to see that gap closed.”
In line with the group’s interest in providing professional networking opportunities and insight for women, Jarrell coordinated the Jan. 4 visit to GE and also invited members of the Society of Women Engineers.
The three-hour job shadowing visit gave students a chance to hear from and interact with the GE Digital Solutions Technology Center Chief Information Officer Mike DeBoer and UNO graduate and GE software engineer Brittany Allesandro, as well as female technical innovation and marketing specialists.
Mahdi Abdelguerfi, chair of computer science at UNO, said such collaborative efforts go a long way toward involving women in the Department of Computer Science—and numbers show the department is making strides.
“The establishment of ACM-W and the GE visit are part of an overall effort by the department to increase female enrollment,” he said. “While overall undergraduate enrollment has risen 61 percent over the last four years, female enrollment has doubled in the same period.”
Jarrell also described the event as a success and said she plans to reach out to other companies for similar opportunities.
This is the second job-shadowing event GE has hosted in collaboration with UNO in recent months. The company is already home of the established and successful Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program with UNO, known as SWEAP, which enables students be trained as apprentices.
Derek Siebert, software apprenticeship technical coach at GE, said the ACM-W event left him encouraged about the future of women in the industry: “We at GE hope that events like this encourage young women to ignore the status quo and pursue a technical profession.”