Supporting Women in STEM: How Cornell Tech and Robert F. Smith Are Empowering Women

Women in STEM

Supporting Women in STEM: How Cornell Tech is Empowering Women. 

Cornell Tech provides an innovative graduate education that integrates the limitless powers of technology with business practices, all fueled by creative thinking, which aims to develop progressive technologies to solve the most pressing problems existing in the world today. A digitally dependent society, Cornell’s brightest minds seek out new ways to use technology to the world’s advantage.

A former Cornell graduate, earning a B.S. Chemical Engineering, Robert F. Smith is enthusiastic about progressing the capabilities of programs like Cornell Tech and bringing diversity into the STEM field.

The Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering: Closing the Gap

In 2016, Cornell’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was renamed the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after a generous $20 million donation. Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is the Founding Director and President, matched his donation in an effort to widen the educational and career opportunities for Black and female students in the STEM field.

An additional $10 million donation was made by Smith to fund a Tech fellowship program, named the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program. This donation will help financially support African American and female students’ educational ventures, allowing them to pursue an engineering degree at Cornell’s campus in Ithaca followed by a master’s degree at the Cornell Tech campus in New York City. Expanded opportunities will support diversity within the field. 

Cornell Tech Women in STEM Programs

Cornell Tech has focused on expanding opportunities for women in the STEM field so as to address the poor representation of the female demographic in associated careers. Originally named Women in Tech New York (WiTNY), Cornell is rebranding the program as “Break Through Tech” and working to expand its offering to further progress the careers of women in STEM and close the gender gap in computer science. The rebranding comes alongside another generous donation from Pivotal Ventures, which invested $50 million in a Gender Equality Tech Initiative. Similar to Smith’s gift, the investment will be used to innovate existing higher education programs to provide greater career, academic, and community support for women in the tech field. The newly revamped Break Through Tech program will focus on the following core initiatives: Curriculum innovation to expand access to computer science, career development of women and minorities in tech, as well as community support. 

The Need to Support Women in STEM

Investing in the future of women in the STEM field, both academically and professionally, is dire with the prospective increase in the industry’s job opportunities over the upcoming years. By 2026, it is projected that there will be 3.5 million computing-related job openings, with only 17% of these jobs being filled by those with computer science bachelor degrees. In order to support greater diversity within the industry as well as an acceptable level of representation for women in computer science roles, there must be significant support to push women through computing degree programs, both at the bachelor and postgraduate levels. Currently, the percentage of women graduating from college with technology-related degrees is less than 1% related to 6% of men. Additionally, the percentage of these degrees awarded to women has declined from 37% to 18%.

Opportunities later in life start early on in a child’s education. Inspired by Smith’s dedication to progressing the STEAM industry, Vista Equity Partners, of which he is the Founder, Chairman and CEO, has also focused its philanthropic efforts on computer science education. The company has partnered with Code.org to introduce computer science to children early on in their academic careers, in order to spark an interest and provide hands-on experience. TIBCO, of which Vista is a strategic investor, partnered with public schools in Denver, Colorado, Smith’s home city, to provide new state-of-the-art tech labs. The new technology will allow students to jumpstart their computer science careers.

Learn more about Robert F. Smith.