Center promotes women in technology


Sophia Bender, a second-year graduate student at IU, explains the textile technology she has been working on to Noma Maier Monday afternoon in the IU Auditorium. Bender's group recently came out with a book entitled "Textile Messages" that enables people to begin creating their own e-textiles. Mary Katherine Wildeman Buy Photos

Catherine Chi and other students gathered around a large television screen as faculty demonstrated how to use an infrared camera to study the universe, part of an initiative to increase female involvement in the technology field.

The research presentation was one of many interactive booths at the IU Center of Excellence for Women in Technology launch reception Monday in the IU Auditorium lobby.

CEWiT is the first university-based center to create an interdisciplinary program to promote women in technology that does not originate in any single school, according to the organization’s website.

The CEWiT celebration followed the organization’s official launch ceremony.

The launch afterparty included multiple interactive booths, including Optical Music Recognition, Science on a Sphere, E-Textiles, World View, 3-D Printed Items, Google Glass and UITS Emerging Technology.

Chi, a graduate student in fine arts and digital art, was intrigued by the use of the camera to study the universe and detect particles such as dust.

CEWiT had a student booth that served as an information table for students and faculty.

“It’s good to say ‘women in technology,’ but it should be normal in the future,” Chi said. “Women shouldn’t be separate.”

IU Provost Lauren Robel said she is excited to be a “piece of the future” in increasing interest in technology among women.

“We’re the only center like this in the country,” Robel said. “The fact that we have taken this position and really organized around this set of ideas will make us visible to women across the country, and that will help to assure women that this is a good place to come to study.”

Right now, women make up 27 percent of the technology workforce.

Fewer than 20 percent of college students graduating with a technology-related degree are women, according to the CEWiT website.

One of CEWiT’s aims is to increase female interest in technology-related fields, organization member and senior Daina Dangerfield said.

The center aims to offer students and faculty opportunities for research collaborations, mentoring, networking and community building, according to its website.

“Our job here is to give women support because it’s hard to enter those fields,” Dangerfield said. “We’re trying to make it easier for women entering those fields going forward.”

The launch event and afterparty served participants by bringing together students, staff and faculty, said Kaitlin Paugh, CEWiT student intern and junior informatics major.

“There is a big gap between all of us,” Paugh said. “I think membership will grow now that we can actually say we are on the campus.”

Paugh said she is grateful to be a part of a group like CEWiT.

“Having student embodiment makes me more comfortable being in informatics because it does get kind of intimidating at times,” Paugh said.

“It’s important for women to feel like they can be involved in anything. Women should feel empowered because they have so much to offer.”

Follow reporter Hannah Alani on Twitter @hannahalani.

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