Houston, TX

Houston Community College club seeks to empower women in IT

Jessica Yang

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Women in Technology (WIT) club at Houston Community College (HCC) sees challenges faced by women seeking IT careers. Headed by Machuria Johnson, a Professor of Computer Networking at HCC Digital and Information Technology Center of Excellence, WIT is a new platform that believes women can excel in the IT field—despite the extra effort needed.

The misconception of IT as a male-only field motivates Johnson to empower women and give them confidence and competitive skills. WIT aims to provide a network of support, access to resources, and training for women’s personal and professional growth.

According to National Science Foundation, only 38 percent of women who majored in computer science are working in the field, compared to 53 percent of men. The gender gap in the industry has created a barrier for women to stand out in the profession and built their career paths there.

One of the WIT’s goals is to close that gap between female and male participation in IT and increase diversity in the industry through mentorship, networking, and learning opportunities. Throughout Johnson’s 37-year career in IT, she saw few of those resources were available to women.

“Looking back, I wished there had been someone there to help me develop the mindset that I am okay and I can do it,” Johnson said. “The number one thing is that you have the right to be at the table and not feel intimidated at the workplace. Even though I have a master’s degree and I’m Microsoft-certified, if I came up with a solution it was questioned. If a guy came up with a solution, it’s not questioned.”

Started with only five members, the WIT club now has more than 50 members today under her leadership.

“It was me just recruiting, sending out warm, fuzzy emails and asking them to be a part and letting them know I’m going to do my best to groom their career planning,” she said. “The goal is to recruit and retain females in IT, and for them to get their computer science degrees now.”

The club also encourages members to participate in the Women in Data Science (WiDS) Datathon in February; WiDS Worldwide Conference in March; a workshop in April featuring guest speaker Michelle Paul, executive director of Capital IDEA Houston; and a Virtual Machine Learning Boot Camp at Rice University in May as a part of its professional enrichment activities.

“I enjoy the comradery and the mentoring,” Johnson said. “I offer them career planning and resume-building and they love that one-on-one time with me because I help them think their way through challenges. That’s what I like the most because I’ve been there.”

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