Women in IT group reaches out to feds

A Washington, D.C.-area professional organization hopes to bring federal information technology women into the fold

A Washington, D.C.-area professional organization dedicated to women in technology careers hopes to bring federal information technology women into the fold.

Women In Technology "is recognizing there are women in government who need to be recognized and need a forum," said Eva Neumann, WIT's president and the president of ENC Marketing Inc., a marketing and communications company.

WIT already counts federal government representatives in its 700 members and has often showcased top women in government IT through networking and mentoring sessions. But their meetings, usually held in Northern Virginia, are not convenient to the very women they are now trying to reach — those who work in Washington.

WIT will kick off an effort April 29 at the Agriculture Department to reach out to the federal IT workforce and the growing number of women in the field.

A session will highlight women from federal, state and local government as well as women in industry. The theme will be "Transcending boundaries — IT opportunities for women in government and industry." The event, said Joanne Connelly, a vice president at Sigaba Corp., will hopefully be the first of many efforts to bring the public- and private- sector communities together. "There is an interest in WIT in staying in the government market," said Connelly, who is helping organize the event.

Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee, said there are many women in top government IT jobs. "We see ourselves as one virtual community."

Hobbs and others say it is essential to encourage more people to get into the IT field as experienced federal workers retire.

Fred Thompson, assistant director for customer service consulting in the Treasury Department's Chief Information Officer's office, estimates that half of the 60,000 federal IT employees could retire in the next decade. "Anything that breaks the barriers down and improves communications among all people is necessary," he said of WIT's new initiative.

At Treasury, about 43 percent of the 6,000 IT workers are women, a percentage probably reflected across government, he said.

But it is necessary to encourage others to enter the field, according to Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, which represents 7 million women nationwide. "We've seen a drop off of women in technology and engineering in the last few years," she said. "If the government would like to have parity between women and men, it will mean more aggressive recruiting [and]...strategies for hiring and retention of women in the same numbers as men."

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The mission of Women In Technology:

* Offer women involved in all levels of the technology industry a wide range of professional development and networking opportunities.

* Serve as an advocate for and a representative of the interests of women in the technology industry.

* Serve as a liaison with other similar organizations on women’s issues.

* Serve as an advocate for technology issues in the greater Washington, D.C., region and abroad.

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