NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing – Applications Are Open

Last week I was called out on a blog titled Stop Squawking; Embody The Change. In it, Nilofer Merchant (the writer) asserts that while my writing about the lack women in tech / entrepreneurship / computer science is useful, it doesn’t have much impact. Nilofer says:

“Those posts are all “Yeahness”; maybe they are helping educate the few people on this earth who haven’t read the research, statistics that says that diversity of opinions improves the performance of any workgroup. Perhaps they counteract the “women just want to have babies” or “women don’t take risks” posts out there.”

She goes on to make a call to action for me and a few others, saying:

“If Mark, or Fred, or Brad wanted to actually see things change, they have to be willing to be changed. They have to have their networks changed. They cannot stay in their current circles, talking to the same people they already talk with, and then imagine they will run into more women to invest in. They cannot expect things to change by asking “boy, I wish things would change”. That’s a gesture. A politically correct gesture, sure, and maybe it gives the warm fuzzies, but accomplishes little else. It is certainly not embodying the necessary change. To move from impossible and unattainable to possible and attainable is more than chopping off a few letters. It means we need to embody the change.”

I agree strongly with Nilofer that we need to embody the change. Since I don’t agree that all I do is write about the issue, I left a comment with a few examples of the things that I actually do, rather than just write about, to address this issue.

One of the things I do is chair the board of the National Center for Women & Information Technology.  It is well documented that there is a significant gender imbalance in IT. Only 18% of computer and information science degrees were awarded to women in 2009 (11% at major research universities), though 57% of college degrees are awarded to women (source: NCWIT By the Numbers 2009.) One of the things I’m especially proud of is the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is designed to reverse this trend by identifying, recognizing and supporting young women interested in and aspiring to pursue a major in computing. It was created in 2007 and has grown to a combined National and Affiliate program with local awards serving 22 states in 2011. To date NCWIT has recognized 855 young women and plans to grow the award program to a reach of 10,000 young women and recognize 1,000 award recipients annually. I wrote about my experience attending the 2010 awards and spending time with the winners, including the college scholarship that Amy and I decided to give each winner in the spur of the moment.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is much more than an award program. Recipients are provided long-term support for their interests in computing through peer networking, mentorship, scholarships and access to opportunities. Applications are now open to any high school young women residing in the US. Please encourage all the young women you know to apply before the end of October.

  • James Mitchell

    When people asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, he
    replied, “That’s where the money is.” The reason Brad and Mark and Fred and
    pretty much every other VC hang out with, talk with, talk to, and fund
    primarily males is because males are where the money is.


    A typical startup consists of two founders: a business
    person and a CTO. CTOs are almost exclusively male. Pretty much every CTO I
    know who is good is totally obsessed with technology. How many women are that
    interested, let alone totally obsessed with technology? I don’t think I have
    met one. As for the business side, men simply are much more likely to have the
    rare combination of skills and talents that are necessary to succeed in the
    very difficult task of successfully starting a tech startup. Women, for
    example, are much less comfortable taking risks than men are.


    All of this talk about “how soon will be at 50-50 in terms
    of women VCs, women CEOs and women CTOs” makes me wonder if there is a
    prerequisite that one be on drugs before posting on certain sites. Several
    years ago, a prominent Linux hacker said, “The goal is not to increase the
    market share of Linux desktop from 1 percent to 50 percent in the next 5 years.
    The goal is to increase it from 1 percent to 2 percent.” In terms of women
    making strides in fields such as VC and tech startups where men are simply much
    more likely to have the rare skills that are necessary, we should be reasonably
    realistic. If the number is 5 percent now, a realistic goal 50 years from now would
    be 10 percent. And it would really help the discussion for people to realize it
    will never be 50 percent or even close.


    At my startup (,
    we recently hired two senior sales execs and several financial/business
    analysts. When we ran ads for the sales execs, all but one of the applicants
    was male. (The woman who responded actually was pretty good, but she was
    unwilling to come to an office every day, she wanted to work from home, and
    that simply does not work if you’re trying to build a cohesive team.) For the
    analysts, all but two applicants were male. Of the two female applicants, one
    wanted to continue with her volunteer work, which meant she would arrive each
    day at 2 pm rather than 9. The other did not want to work more than 30 hours a


    We do need another analyst, someone who is really good at finance,
    Microsoft Excel and ideally knows VBA reasonably well. So if you’re a female in
    the Boston area with such skills, write to me at [email protected].
    And if you’re a male, that’s also OK, we do not discriminate, I just want to
    hire good people.

    • An Actually Pretty Good Guest

      James – I’m curious: would your partners be pleased to have their company publicly associated with these sorts of statements? Even if you do happen to hold such antediluvian opinions as “men are simply much more likely to have the rare skills that are necessary” to be successful in the difficult field of tech startups, why would you be so senseless as to admit to them openly? Have you considered the possibility that you get very few female applicants (especially ones that are “actually pretty good”) because you are known to hold the views that you do and so create a hostile work environment for women?

      As a woman (who happens to be “actually pretty good”) in a high ranking finance role at a firm much more significant than yours, it saddens me to see that a person could obtain such stellar educational credentials and yet remain so ignorant and self-defeating as you.

      Finally, although we women do not naturally posses the rare combination of skill and talent that you were endowed with, we do know how to Google our prospective employers… I would suspect that after finding this blog post of yours, most would steer clear of Abbington Partners…. and you personally as well. 

  • Thanks for sharing this Brad.  I’ve forwarded this to my Alma Mater, an all girls’ high school with some of the smartest and most ambitious people you will meet.  Please let me know if there is anything similar for college students, as I am also trying to work with my college to help change the ratio.   

  • All the best. I believe change will happen, in due time..

  • Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your site and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your site posts. 

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