By Maureen Fitzgerald

At the Computer Technologies Program (CTP) in Berkeley, the program is an attempt to expand career and economic potential for women with disabilities. This project aims to raise the percentage of women in the computer programming training from 18 to 36 percent.

Picture of Jess working
After researching sites on the Internet and meeting with a focus group several times, the following emerged as keys to recruiting women to a technical program.

  • Women mentors and role models are essential to attract and retain women in technical training.
  • Computers at home make it easier to juggle work and family responsibilities.
  • Career counselors may have incorporated the bias against women going into technical careers.
  • Counselors should expect women to be hesitant to go into technical careers.
  • Outreach materials must include pictures of women.

The focus group was made up of 3 representatives from the Department of Rehabilitation, 2 representatives from computer technology businesses, 3 representatives from the CTP staff and students, and 2 representatives from research institutes.

Den. at computerSome interesting facts came out of looking at the student statistics at CTP. The women who entered CTP during its over 20-year history, had a lower drop-out rate than the men. Also, many different disabilities are represented in the student population. Deaf students represent less than 10 percent of CTP graduates but of the Deaf students 40 percent were women. When asked what might account for this difference, several Deaf people responded that computer technology offers a career that has less communication barriers for Deaf people, so Deaf women jump at the chance to get trained as programmers. Also, there might be something about the Deaf community that offers more support or less discouragement to women in technical fields.

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