News Release

Florida Department of Education and Cisco Networking Academy Address Gender Gap in IT

New Model for Female Recruitment and Retention in High-Tech Industry
Jan 27, 2005

TALLAHASSEE, FL., and SAN JOSE, Calif., - Jan. 27, 2005 - Although women constitute more than half of the population, they make up only 35 percent of the IT workforce in the United States. Additionally, according to the Computing Research Association, less than a fifth of undergraduates in college computer science programs are female. To address this discrepancy, the Florida Department of Education and Cisco Networking Academy today announced the Girls Get IT Initiative in Florida to increase female recruitment and retention in IT.

"To succeed in today's increasingly digital society, students must learn to use tools essential to everyday life and the workplace," said David Armstrong, Chancellor of the Florida Community College and Workforce Education System. "Demonstrating the importance of IT to young women is crucial to their professional development because of the fact that information technology underpins nearly every other industry and its presence is not likely to be diminished in the future."

The group will work with the Florida Department of Education to research, develop and implement a framework to help raise female student participation and graduation rates in IT. Four regional Networking Academy sites are targeted for initial participation including: Florida Community College of Jacksonville; North Florida Community College; Broward County Community College; and Valencia Community College. Through the Florida Community College and Workforce Education System, educators, administrators and guidance counselors will be empowered with access to teaching methods designed to increase awareness of career and education opportunities for women in technology.

"According to the American Association of University Women based in Washington, D.C., women receive less than 28 percent of the bachelors degrees in computer science," said Gene Longo, senior manager of Cisco Networking Academy Field Operations. "This is a decrease from a high of 37 percent in 1984. Computer science is the only field in which women's participation has actually decreased over time. The Cisco Networking Academy is committed to narrowing the gender gap in technology training and careers. The main objective of the Girls Get IT Initiative is to introduce more female students to technology in K-12 and college, and to ignite more excitement about potential careers in technology."

The initiative will provide dedicated support personnel for program outreach to students, guidance counselors and parents to create interest in IT. Activities including Girls in IT Summits, IT Camps and Computer Clubs for students will facilitate opportunities for recruitment in middle schools and high schools. The program will also provide greater collaboration among high schools, community colleges and industry to promote workforce development. Because Florida has one of the most sophisticated student tracking systems in the country, the initiative will track the recruitment, retention and career path of women.

John Winn, Commissioner of Education for the State of Florida added, "I applaud Cisco for their innovation and for stepping forward to address the need to recruit and retain females in the field of Information Technology. IT is one of Florida's targeted industries for economic development. This combined effort is an example of the way our Community College and Workforce Education System works to meet the needs of our state's economy."

"Part of the challenge of getting girls interested in IT is showing them how the subject matter is relevant to their lives and interests," said Marcia Sitcoske, director of the Creative Learning Studios at Cisco. "It should be looked at more as a component of their overall academic career. It's not just engineering and science. There are a lot of business programs and MBA programs that are incorporating IT as part of a career path. That's why outreach is so essential."

"Students are still generally unfamiliar with the workplace and opportunities available to them," said Rick Kearney, chairman of the Florida IT Board. "This is especially the case for young girls. There is a surprising absence of awareness of engineering and technology-type jobs, and what is involved with these careers on a day-to-day basis. This initiative will help students realize the myriad of social issues that are solved through technology, to gain insight from mentors, and collaborate in unconventional ways. We look forward to retaining these young girls' skills in Florida once they graduate from college and become part of the work force."

The Cisco Networking Academy Program presents an excellent opportunity to help narrow the gender gap and increase female participation in the Internet economy. The Girls Get IT Initiative is part of a larger Cisco initiative focused on increasing females' access to IT training and career opportunities, beginning with the Cisco Networking Academy Program. Cisco and the Cisco Learning Institute are working with Networking Academies worldwide to collect and disseminate information on best practice recruitment and retention strategies to increase female participation in computer science as well as other related IT degree programs and careers.

For more information about the Cisco Networking Academy Program, visit: