Flatiron, Birchbox Team for Tech Scholarships for Women

Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on January 16, 2017 at 11:09 am
Flatiron, Birchbox Team for Tech Scholarships for Women

Women and engineering still aren’t synonymous, but coding school Flatiron and beauty-products subscription company Birchbox want to change that. At a time when some women are feeling bloodied and bruised after a contentions U.S. election, Flatiron and Birchbox aim to empower them to consider the field of engineering by offer tech scholarships for women.

The two will provide 25 women with 50 percent scholarships to Flatiron School, reducing its online program costs by half.  Flatiron and Birchbox are spending $100,000 on the initiative called Women Take Tech.  “There simply aren’t enough women in tech,” says Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp. “It’s common that one looks out at the world to examples in order to set their sights on something and envision their own career. The lack of examples in the workforce affects the ability to conceive of yourself pursuing a career in technology.”

Consider this: according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, just 25 percent of U.S. computer jobs in 2015 were held by women. What’s more, only 17 percent of chief information officers at Fortune 500 companies are women as of 2015. This comes despite a boom in computing-related jobs, with the NCWIT projecting there will be 1.1 million openings by 2024.

$100,000 in tech scholarships for women this month

Flatiron and Birchbox are committing to award more than $100,000 in tech scholarship for women in January alone. The two are also tapping the female teach leaders at Birchbox to host events that inspire women to pursue careers in engineering and technology.

“When you think about the opportunities to deliver a student body and help diversify the tech space, we think about awareness and access,” says Rebekah Rombom, vice president of business development at Flatiron School. “This partnership does both of these things. Birchbox customers are mostly women and might not be aware of the technology opportunity for them.”

Every penny helps, tech leaders say

Offering $100,000 in tech scholarships for women may not seem like it will make much of a difference. But according to Jessica Rannow, president of the Society of Women Engineers and project manager at AmerisourceBergen, it helps more than many realize.  Free money to alleviate some of the costs of an engineering or technology degree is vital to get more women, particularly female minorities, in the tech workforce.

Currently participation of African American and Hispanic women in computer-related jobs is minuscule, representing 3 percent and 1 percent respectively, according to NCWIT. It doesn’t help that the annual average cost of tuition and fees is $9,650 at a public four-year school and $33,480 at a private four-year college. That doesn’t take into account the cost of textbooks, which amount to $1,200 on average, and time spent learning the coursework. Even coding schools such as Flatiron can be cost prohibitive to women. Rombom says Flatiron’s program takes six to eight months to complete and costs between $9,000 and $12,000.

This isn’t the first time Flatiron has teamed with a women-focused company to build awareness about careers in engineering, computing and technology. It teamed with Kode with Klossy and Women Who Code on scholarships, holds tech events and symposiums on women’s issues in tech and has had hundreds of women take its boot camp on its New York City campus or online.

Organization offered $750,000 in scholarships last year

“Scholarships for women are extremely beneficial – relieving a bit of the burden when you’re worrying about the heavy engineering course load,” Rannow says. “I myself was awarded a variety of scholarships through SWE based on my student organization leadership, and it paid for half my college tuition. Scholarships also create an awareness – when women see that there’s money available for women engineers, they might consider engineering as an area to look into.”

According to Rannow, the SWE Scholarship Program, which provides financial assistance to women pursuing engineering and computing degrees, awarded around 230 new and renewed scholarships to the tune of $750,000 in 2016 alone. The awards range from $1,000 to $15,000, with many of them renewable.

She says tech scholarships for women are and will continue to be a necessity because of the lack of progress women are making in the sector.  “We have certainly made strides as women in engineering – especially when you look at now compared to the 60s and 70s when women weren’t even allowed to enroll at some engineering colleges,” Rannow says. “However, right now about 20 percent of graduating engineering students are females, and that’s the same percentage as when I was in college 20 years ago.”

Donna Fuscaldo
Donna Fuscaldo is a freelance journalist hailing out of Long Island, New York. She has also written for Bankrate.com, Glassdoor.com, SigFig.com, FoxBusiness.com, Business Insider, Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.

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