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AUSTIN, Texas - June 5, 2007

"Tool Time" at First Bytes campThe University of Texas at Austin Department of Computer Sciences (UTCS) hosts the First Bytes program as an educational outreach initiative to enhance gender equity in technology and computing fields.

Nationally, women represent approximately 60% of college graduates, but representation in Computer Science has fallen to approximately 15%. To address the need for gender equity, UTCS gained funding from the Texas Engineering and Technical Consortium (TETC) to develop the First Bytes program. The program is aimed at identifying and overcoming attitudinal barriers so that computing science becomes a viable career option in the minds of young women.

At the First Bytes Residential Summer Program, approximately 50 high school women from across Texas live on The University of Texas campus with adult female advisors who guide, inspire and empower them during the last week of June. Activities designed to overcome barriers to women in computing include career mentoring, programming language labs, logic games, computer dissection, robotic competitions, tours of local technology companies and visits with Computer Sciences faculty. Educational reforms, starting with awareness, can work as proven by the dramatic difference at Carnegie Mellon where the percentage of women entering the School of Computer Science rose from 7% in 1995 to 42% in 2000.¹

The First Bytes program challenges traditional stereotypes about computing careers by getting to the heart of hidden questions such as: Will I like computing as a job? Is work/life balance possible? Will I feel isolated or will I be supported and included? Is it too hard for me? Will I be seen as a "geek?" Will I feel out of place as an underrepresented gender? Is there a social impact to computing where I can help others and make a difference? What kinds of other science related problems can I help solve?

"As a camper at First Bytes, I absolutely fell in love with the University of Texas at Austin and could not wait to begin my education here. Now as an adviser, I share my enthusiasm for Computer Science and UT with other bright young girls," said Jennifer McClelen, former camper and advisor at First Bytes."

Corporations concerned about gender equity and diversity hiring support the program with sponsor funding, gifts and participation in Corporate Chat, a luncheon where women in technology occupations inspire First Bytes participants with their personal life and career stories. Corporate sponsors this year include Lockheed Martin, Cisco Systems, and Schlumberger.

Contact: University of Texas Department of Computer Sciences

Mary Esther Middleton

Tiffany Grady

¹ Unlocking The Clubhouse

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