In the News

August 26, 2020

Register Now for the Inaugural Event of Women in Technology at UCI

Shohreh Bozorgmehri
Debra Richardson
Jennifer Wong-Ma

Last year, Shohreh Bozorgmehri, director of the Student and Academic Services Division of UCI’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), started sharing her idea for a new organization at UCI focused on women in technology. She mentioned it to Debra Richardson, an emeritus faculty member and founding dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). Richardson expressed enthusiasm for the idea and suggested involving Jennifer Wong-Ma, associate professor of teaching in ICS. Richardson and Wong-Ma became part of the inaugural advisory board, joining other UCI faculty and staff in helping Bozorgmehri launch Women in Technology at UCI (WiT UCI) in January 2020.

“From the start, we created a diverse advisory board of faculty and staff and included gender-neutral representation from different areas of UCI, including central IT, academic schools, and health,” says Bozorgmehri. “With that diversity in mind, our focus will be on innovative methods to increase awareness around gender disparities as well as enhance practices and processes that create access and more opportunities for women in technology to thrive.”

Altered Environments, New Opportunities
The WiT UCI vision of “connecting, inspiring and empowering” women working in, teaching and studying technology at UCI was temporarily put on hold in March as members turned their attention to helping the campus community address the global pandemic and swiftly transition to remote learning and work. Yet the need for WiT UCI has only grown more apparent in recent months, with the pandemic exacerbating some of the challenges women in technology face. A recent Forbes article highlights how COVID-19 has negatively impacted women in tech, throwing off the fragile work-life balance.

Judy Olson
Van Williams
Jenn Stringer
Katie Chappell

So WiT UCI is now back on track and ready to host its inaugural event, a virtual panel discussion focused on “Altered Environments, New Opportunities.” Anyone interested in technology, from all levels of the campus community, can now register for the event, which will take place Sept. 10, 2020, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The panel will cover “what it’s like right now to be working remotely,” says Wong-Ma, “and how that feeds into some of the pitfalls that women face.”

Bozorgmehri and Richardson will serve as moderators, leading the discussion about women in technology during this unprecedented time of change. The panelists include

  • Judy Olson, professor emeritus of the School of ICS, who will kick off the event as the keynote speaker;
  • Van Williams, vice chancellor of information technology at UC Santa Cruz;
  • Jenn Stringer, associate vice chancellor for IT and CIO at UC Berkeley; and
  • Katie Chappell, manager of communications and training at UCI’s Office of Information Technology.

“It’s really for anybody interested in or working in the IT field, both men and women,” stresses Wong-Ma. “We encourage men to be involved, because the idea is that you’re supporting diversification, supporting women in technology, recognizing their struggles and wanting to assist in improving that situation.”

Raising Awareness and Advocating for Change
In addition to hosting this and future events, WiT UCI is also focused on taking a closer look at the campus IT community, collecting statistics on promotions, diversity in the various IT groups, and the number of female leadership roles. As the group analyzes the data and works to address disparities, Wong-Ma will highlight the faculty’s role in raising awareness and advocating for change.

“When you have women in IT, you often think about the workers,” she says. “But your faculty in IT are playing just as large of a role and dealing with the same challenges, and they’re really the ones who are in the classroom and most visible to the up-and-coming IT programmers.”

As a WiT UCI advisory board member, Wong-Ma will be working to build mentorship and support for continuing (faculty and staff) and aspiring (undergraduate and graduate students) STEM women of the UCI community. “We need to build awareness about ways to promote women and give them equal opportunities, and then we need to bring that back into the classroom,” she says.

Also, as a faculty adviser to the Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS) student-run campus organization, Wong-Ma hopes to collaborate with WICS members to showcase campus and community opportunities related to STEM and IT. “So our goal right now is to host events, panels and social gatherings, very similar to what WICS does for undergraduates, but focusing on technology professionals and bringing them together to share their stories and support each other on campus.”

This helps advance Bozorgmehri’s goal of making UCI known for “creating a workplace friendly for all women and minorities in the technology space.”

So if you’re a member of the UCI community — an undergraduate or graduate student, a member of the faculty or staff, or one of UCI’s alumni — and you’re interested in technology, subscribe to the WiT UCI mailing list to learn about upcoming events, networking activities, educational programs and career development initiatives. Join the effort to build a supportive and inclusive space for women in technology at UCI.

Shani Murray

Register Now for the Inaugural Event of Women in Technology at UCI

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