In an effort to boost the number of women in the tech industry, Cornell is trying to take its Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York program national.
Cornell Tech announced the expansion of the WiTNY program “to attract and retain women and other underrepresented groups pursuing tech education and careers nationally,” the January press release read. The program is also branching out, adding a new location in Chicago.
In 2016, Cornell Tech launched WiTNY in conjunction with the City University of New York in an attempt to increase the number of women — especially women of color — pursuing tech careers, according to Greg Morrisett, dean and vice provost of Cornell Tech.
“When you look at the diversity of New York, it is not really reflected in the tech industry at all,” Morrisett told The Sun. “We partnered with CUNY in part because [it] is very diverse, not just in terms of women but [in] other kinds of demographics.”
Supported by a $50 million investment from Melinda Gates’ firm Pivotal Ventures, and additional funds from the Cognizant U.S. Foundation and Verizon, WiTNY plans to expand outward and exert a national influence.
According to Morrisett, the goal of WiTNY was to have more women “look at tech as a possible career path,” as well as remove roadblocks that they may encounter along the way.
One barrier includes getting a foot into the industry’s door. In response, WiTNY created a three-week “Winternship” opportunity over January break. Morrisett called this program where students work on projects with a host company a “stepping stone.”
With this expansion, WiTNY will be now called Break Through Tech, which will be a part of the new Gender Equality in Tech Cities initiative. With classroom, community and workplace initiatives, Break Through Tech will branch out to three new cities, starting with Chicago in a partnership with The University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I think that Pivotal [Ventures] felt that we were very successful here in New York with the programs that we set up, and wanted to take that to other cities,” Morrisett said. “We are going to continue our efforts here with CUNY and start-up these efforts with partners in Chicago, and then we will be looking at a couple of other cities to move into after Chicago.”
Judy Spitz, founding program director of WiTNY, will oversee operations of groups in New York and Chicago as the executive director of Break Through Tech.
Morrisett hopes the expansion will encourage “more brilliant, bright students” to apply to Cornell Tech.
“Society depends crucially upon having the right representation,” Morrisett said. “Having the right, diverse ecosystem is critical for getting the questions in those areas right. For society’s sake, if we don’t have the right kind of equity, then we are all going to suffer.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how Cornell Tech’s Break Through Tech program received funding. Pivotal Ventures invested $50 million in a Break Through Tech initiative, not Cornell Tech. This program received additional funds from Cognizant U.S. Foundation and Verizon. The article also did not clarify that the Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship in New York program will become Break Through Tech as the program seeks to expand nationally. Additionally, the article misstated Judy Spitz’s position in WiTNY. Spitz is the founding program director of WiTNY and will become the executive director of Break Through Tech. The headline and article have since been updated to reflect these changes.