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Saturday, January 28, 2017 10:01 pm

Diversifying tough to do, Ivy Tech profs find

Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette

It might seem simple: diversify employment in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

But Clifford M. Clarke, a partner in C2 IT Advisors, quickly offers a few reasons why it’s not:

• Young girls and minorities may not get the support or encouragement at home – or even from educators – to consider STEM careers.

• There’s still a perception that being smart as it relates to technology makes you a nerd, subject to bullying while "being a jock" might make you more popular.

"Being smart is still not the badge that many people want to wear," Clarke said.

• Those who might have an interest don’t see many women or minorities working in STEM jobs, people they could "relate to and feel comfortable with," Clarke said during a telephone interview. "Not to say women or minorities should only look for people who look like them."

Clark, executive director of Computer and Technology Services at Ivy Tech Northeast, was among the speakers last week at a "Women & Minorities in Information Technology" lecture at the local campus. The lecture was sponsored by the Information Technology Club, a student organization that hopes to encourage diversity in the industry.

"I think as time goes on and the world of technology opens up to different markets, diversity will be increasingly important to increase the talent pool," Joseph Wright, president of the IT Club, said during an interview. Wright, 26, attended Ivy Tech until last year, studying software development, but is now at Indiana Tech majoring in web development and working in the tech field.

The idea for the club to sponsor lectures came from Lucy La Hurreau, Wright said. La Hurreau said she was a "displaced homemaker" when she started at Ivy Tech in 1998. She earned a degree in computer networking and in business, then went to Indiana Tech, where she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration focusing on information management. She is an assistant professor with Ivy Tech’s health information technology program.

About 75 percent of college students are women or minority, La Hurreau said, but less than 20 percent of those are going into the tech field.

"We’re not taught the fact that that is something we can do," she said. 

The goal behind ongoing dialogue about diversity is to say "there’s a spot for you here. We want you here," she said.

Clarke said movies like "Hidden Figures," which portrays the crucial role black women had at NASA – once given opportunity – could make a difference in how females and minorities perceive STEM careers.

lisagreen@jg.net