Salt Lake City — WGU Tennessee announced rcently that the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition awarded the university a $915,000 “Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers for Women in Tech” (B4 Women in Tech) grant. The monies will support a significant increase in the number of Black, Latina, and Native American (BLNA) women earning bachelor’s degrees from the nonprofit online university’s College of Information Technology by 2025.
Black, Latina, and Native American women represent approximately 16 percent of the total US population, yet they make up only 4 percent of students obtaining bachelor’s degrees in computing. Nationwide, only 25 percent of tech graduates are women, with a dropout rate of 37 percent for tech classes compared to 30 percent for other programs. If this trend continues, the number of underrepresented women of color receiving computing degrees will not double until 2052—by which time they will represent a vanishingly small proportion of all graduates. Furthermore, when looking at programs that focus on reaching women and girls, companies concentrate 66 percent of their philanthropic funding on K–12 programs, compared to 3 percent on college-level programs. This points to a missed opportunity for tech companies to invest in the workforce in the short term.
Reboot Representation CEO Dwana Franklin-Davis said, “At Reboot, we believe that supporting students to complete computing degrees means understanding and addressing their life circumstances. We’re proud to partner with Western Governors University on preparing Black, Latina, and Native American women for the technology field and the career paths ahead of them.”
While 61 percent of WGU students are women, the university’s BLNA enrollment in its College of Information Technology closely resembles the national average. Like much of the postsecondary education sector, the university is focused on changing that through targeted outreach and customized student support from enrollment to completion.
“As a university with a mission to change lives for the better by creating pathways to opportunity, WGU recognizes the urgent need for more women of color to have access to industry-relevant technology education to prepare them for thriving-wage, in-demand careers in the technology sector,” said Ashutosh Tiwary, Senior Vice President of WGU’s College of Information Technology. “With the support from this grant, we aspire to grow our BLNA enrollment to reflect the national representation of women of color.”
WGU is committed to being the most student-centric university in the world and is intentional that all students have the resources to learn at their own pace and persist to graduation. To support more BLNA women getting baccalaureate IT degrees, the university will provide increased peer and coaching support, admissions process support, leadership development training, and financial aid grants if needed. Additionally, WGU Academy—the university’s college readiness program—will provide an onramp for students who need additional support, while also serving as a reentry point for BLNA students from WGU’s College of Information Technology who previously stopped pursuing bachelor’s degrees.
“At WGU, we believe in education equity and always keep an eye toward transforming our systems to improve access for all learners. Gifts like this ensure that, given the opportunity, every individual has something meaningful to contribute,” said Annalisa Holcombe, President of WGU Advancement, the university’s fundraising and development arm.
WGU pioneered online, competency-based education, a model that allows students to further their education and careers on their own timeline, no matter where they live. This approach allows students to apply their prior learning and work-based skills to coursework, enabling them to progress through what they know and spend more time learning what they don’t. All students at WGU will be paired with a program mentor who has expertise in their chosen degree program and supports students in learning and navigating their educational journeys from enrollment through graduation.
WGU cybersecurity and information assurance student, Shaira Lacour, a mother and Marine Corps veteran, said, “WGU works for me because I can get exactly what I need with no nonsense. I don’t have to worry about sitting in a class that I feel like I already know the material, and they give me all the tools I need to be successful. The model of on-demand learning, go as you learn, is definitely beneficial for someone like me, and I’m excited to have an institution like WGU on my side to help me achieve my goals.”
The WGU College of IT offers bachelor’s degrees in cloud computing, computer science, cybersecurity and information assurance, data management/analytics, health information management, information technology, IT management, network operations and security, and software development.
For more information on WGU’s B4 Women in Tech initiative, and to enroll, visit www.wgu.edu/b4women.