Women Making Their Mark in Info Systems

Women in IS 2

IS seniors Emily Cookson and Breanna Bowden attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston.

The need for STEM professionals is on the rise, and women are happily stepping up to help meet the exploding demand. According to Forbes, eleven of the top twenty highest-paying jobs for women in 2015 are in STEM fields—among those, information systems managers were ranked eighteenth. And at BYU, more female students are discovering the lure of careers in the field.

The 2015 IS junior core is made up of 18 percent women, a huge jump from the mere 4 percent that women accounted for last year.

“I originally had no intention to pursue IS, but then I took IS 201 and absolutely loved it,” says Kellie Christensen, a member of the junior core from Clackamas, Oregon.  “One thing that captured my attention is how we’re taught to leverage technology in order to solve business problems. Learning both the ‘how’ and ‘why’ for these situations is an important skill to have.”

Lisa Moody, a junior from Mesquite, Nevada, was also enchanted by the information systems major in her introductory classes.

“I’ve always been interested in learning how things work,” Moody says. “I originally planned to use that passion to learn about the human body and study physical therapy. But the courses I took weren’t satiating my interest in innovative thinking. I started researching information systems and decided to try a computer programming course, so I took IS 303 and never looked back.”

Some faculty members attribute the increase in women to a capstone project that three female students—Tahna Black, Michelle Hill, and Nina Lang—completed last year and took to the national AIS Women in Information Systems Video Competition, winning third place.

“We had them give their presentation to all of the prerequisite classes that feed people into our program,” says information systems program advisor Caroline Thorne. “It really created interest and helped increase the number of women applying to our program.”

Thorne thinks this is just the beginning of a new era of information systems at BYU that is more diverse—and even more competitive.

“This junior core has the highest GPA of any group we’ve had before,” Thorne says. “And that says a lot. They’re such bright students.”

Before they graduate this spring, two current MISM seniors, Emily Cookson and Breanna Bowden, are planning to leave a lasting impact on campus. They attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston to get information and inspiration for their capstone project.

“Our goal in attending the conference was to focus on how we can bring more women into technology—not only in the Marriott School, but across BYU campus,” Bowden says. “It was a great place to get some exposure for our school and network with big names in the industry.”

With their research complete, Bowden and Cookson set about continuing the work laid by the Women in Information Systems capstone group last year.

“We wanted to take it to the next step, so we’re starting an organization called Women United in Technology,” Bowden says. “It will be campus-wide and consist of women in computer science, computer engineering and IT, and information systems. It’s an umbrella club for women in all those majors, and it provides a single point on campus for recruiters to contact.”

Bowden hopes to officially launch the club next semester, and has plans for a virtual career fair where students can skype with recruiters from top tech companies. To join the club and connect with other women in technology across campus, visit womenunitedintechnology.com. To learn more about BYU’s information systems program, visit marriottschool.byu.edu/bsis.