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Houston Community College: Professor Leads Student Club To Empower Women To Excel In IT Fields

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Machuria Johnson, Associate Chair of Computer Networking and Artificial Intelligence, HCC Digital and Information Technology Center of Excellence, heads the Women in Technology (WIT) club.Professor leads student club to empower women to excel in IT fields

Machuria Johnson’s passionate journey in information technology has brought her full circle with her new role as program advisor for Houston Community College’s Women in Technology (WIT) club.

The professor, who teaches computer networking at HCC Southwest, knows the challenges facing women seeking careers in IT. She has long grappled with the misconception of IT as a male field, and witnessed the extra effort women have to make for their competencies to be recognized and respected.

WIT is the platform on which Johnson continues her push to prove women can excel in IT.

Closing the gap

Relaunched a year ago, the club aims to increase the number of confident, skilled and successful women in IT, and to provide a network of support and access to resources and training for their personal and professional growth. It strives to close the gap of female participation in IT and to increase diversity in the industry through mentorship, networking and learning opportunities.

Few of these resources were available, however, during much of Johnson’s 37-year career in IT that has included jobs at the ConocoPhillips, Houston Police Department, Texas Children’s Hospital, Professional Builders Group, and South Texas College of Law, among others.

“Looking back, I wished there had been someone there to help me develop the mindset that I am okay and I can do it,” said Johnson, who was promoted to associate chair of Computer Networking and Artificial Intelligence. “The number one thing is that you have the right to be at the table and not feel intimidated at the workplace.”

Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Houston and an MBA degree in Management from Rice University.

The National Council for Workforce Education recently accepted her into the 2021-2022 New Workforce Professionals Academy, which develops community college workforce education professionals.

According to National Science Foundation, only 38 percent of women who majored in computer science are working in the field compared to 53 percent of men. Insufficient support and lack of opportunities create a barrier for women to build a clear path forward, Johnson said.

Growing interest

Under her leadership, the WIT club has grown from five members to more than 50 today.

“It was me just recruiting, sending out warm, fuzzy emails and asking them to be a part and letting them know I’m going to do my best to groom their career-planning,” Johnson said. “The goal is to recruit and retain females in IT, and for them to get their computer science degrees now.”

The club encourages members to take part in professional enrichment activities. This year, the members have participated in Women in Data Science (WiDS) Datathon; WiDS Worldwide Conference, a workshop featuring guest speaker Michelle Paul, executive director of Capital IDEA Houston; and a Virtual Machine Learning Boot Camp at Rice University.

“I enjoy the comradery and the mentoring,” Johnson said. “I offer them career planning and resume-building and they love that one-on-one time with me because I help them think their way through challenges. That’s what I like the most because I’ve been there.”

To join or learn more about WIT, contact Johnson at machuria.johnson@hccs.edu or 713.718.2448.

This press release was produced by Houston Community College. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

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