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March is Women’s History Month and ITS is celebrating by highlighting women and nonbinary Tar Heels in technology. All month long, we’ll share profiles, Q&As and stories to share the breadth and diversity of the Carolina-women-in-IT experience. Profiles will also include career advice and resources to help other women and gender minorities at Carolina build their own tech-focused career path.

Profiles and stories

As stories are published, we’ll update this section, so check back over the course of Women’s History Month!

A column of four black and white images. The first shows a woman's hands typing punch cards. The second shows a woman programming inputs on the UNIVAC 1105. The third shows a man showing the tape drives of the machine to two people, a man and a woman. The fourth shows Chapel Hill High School students, including several women, clustered around the computer.
Page seven of the 1964 Computation Center brochure, courtesy of North Carolina Digital Collections

Computation Center

In 1964, the Computation Center at UNC-Chapel Hill released a marketing brochure for the center and what was then Carolina’s only computer, a UNIVAC 1105. Purchased in 1959, the UNIVAC 1105 was more than 60 feet long and weighed more than 19 tons. It cost almost $2.5 million, the equivalent of $25 million in today’s dollars, and represented the pinnacle of computing power.  

The brochure includes photos of several unidentified women, including members of the Chapel Hill High School Computing Club [bottom photo], working on or learning about the machine. 

The Computation Center was established to provide the University “with the capabilities and the power of a modern, large-scale digital computer for use in research in education.”  

The Computation Center was later subsumed into the organization that would become ITS. 

Department of Computer Science

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Computer Science, then called the Department of Information Science, was founded in 1964. And according to the department’s historical record, women have played a key role since its early days. In 1966, the department employed four instructors — including Sylvia Hubbard, who taught programming.

In December 1966, the department celebrated its first graduating class — sole graduate Gail Woodward received her master’s degree.

Changing workforce

According to a 2018 report, while women make up 43% of the US workforce, only 38% of full-time higher education IT workforce are women.

Currently, women make up 32.5% of ITS staff, up a percent from 2009. While this is below the national average for higher ed IT, women at the senior leadership level at UNC top the national average — holding five out of 10 of the senior leadership spots.

Growing student interest

Fostering women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has been a long road for educators at all levels, but the strides are visible.

In the 2012-2013 academic year, there were a total of 19 female graduates with computer science as a first major for their bachelor’s degree. By 2021-2022, that number had grown to 138 students.

Even the 19 students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2011-2012 was a huge leap from 10 years prior. In the 2001-2002 academic year, only two women received a bachelor’s with computer science as their first major.

Graph that shows women with computer science as a first major between the years 2012 and 2022. In 2012 there are 19 students, by 2022, there are 138. The graph shows a steady rise until the 2018 academic year, where it makes a large jump from 67 students to 103.
Source: UNC Data Mart

More ways to celebrate Women’s History Month

Here are some ways you can get involved with women in tech on campus this month and all year long.

At a Pearl Hacks event, dozens of young women in a lecture hall look excited.
Pearl Hacks hosts beginner-friendly hackathons geared towards women and gender non-conforming individuals in tech. The group held its first hackathon in 2014. Photo courtesy of Pearl Hacks

Celebrate with the Department of Computer Science’s Womxn in tech week, March 6 – 10.

Check ITS News all month long for more stories, profiles and advice.

Join the EDUCAUSE Women in IT Community Group. EDUCAUSE calls itself the “largest community of technology, academic, industry and campus leaders advancing higher education through the use of IT.” ITS provides an institutional membership to EDUCAUSE. All UNC students, faculty and staff can use their Onyen to connect with peers across the nation.

Join a student group:


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