From what started as a small idea in 2018, the Rutgers University Women+ in Information Technology (Women+ in IT) group has grown into a supportive space for women, allies, and underrepresented groups to discuss a variety of career-focused topics reaching hundreds of Rutgers community members, including individuals outside of typical IT roles.
“I consider this group to be a collaboration of people across different units, departments, schools, and campuses that discuss difficult questions in a safe space,” says Laura Gordon, coordinator of the Women+ in IT Group and School of Arts and Sciences web developer. “During our events, we try to bring up topics that we think are meaningful, and things that will get us talking. And that’s really important in the workplace.”
Hosting free, hybrid and virtual events on topics close to the group’s mission is one of the main ways the Rutgers Women+ in IT group engages with university members. The group typically hosts events several times a year about topics like “Normalizing Failure,” “WIT Networking Get Together,” and “Confronting Bias: Thriving Across Our Differences.” Up next in October 2023, Rutgers Women+ in IT plans to host a hybrid event in Newark called “Frozen Moments,” in which participants will talk about how to respond to inappropriate comments in the workplace.
The Women+ in IT group exists as its own entity within Rutgers, and is also a small part of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) for Women+ in IT. Today leaders of the Women+ in IT group still work closely with the BTAA to coordinate events and resources for Rutgers community members, such as “Coffee Catchups” which occur every third Wednesday of the month.
All events, both those run by Rutgers Women+ in IT and BTAA members, can be found in the Women+ in IT group events calendar, and interested individuals can stay up to date by joining the mailing list. Those who are looking to get more involved can also join the Women+ in IT Working Group, which meets once a quarter to discuss future events and plans for the group.
“What this group is really about is helping to guide women and underrepresented groups to reach their potential,” says Gordon. “We support the learning community through social and educational networking events, with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), fostering coalition building, collaboration, and supportive relationships for all.”
While the group has maintained its focus on its members and events since the start, Women+ in IT branched out last year to get involved in the Newark community. After receiving the Rutgers Newark Chancellor’s Impact Seed Grant, the group was awarded $25,000 to be used for the funding of two STEM initiatives in the Newark community.
The first initiative, the FIRST LEGO League Challenge, had over 50 students from George Washington Carver Elementary School and the surrounding area participate last year. The robotics experience challenged the students to work in teams, use critical thinking, and basic math skills.
The second initiative, a two-year program for Newark’s School of Data Science & Information Technology, has had 19 students participate in its workshops so far, which are geared towards developing skills in HTML and learning the science behind web application development.
Going forward the group plans to continue expanding its impact on the Rutgers community, and anyone interested in joining can visit the Rutgers Women+ in IT group’s contact page to learn more.Tags: Camden, Health Sciences IT, IT community, New Brunswick, Newark