As part of the strategic partnership between Wilkes Community College and the newly formed nonprofit, NC Tech Paths, employees are working to highlight, celebrate, and increase women in technology careers. The initiative coincides with Women’s History Month.
Technology careers have historically been male-dominated career fields, but that trend is rapidly changing, and female tech talent is in high demand. WCC and NC Tech Paths are teaming up to raise awareness among youth and adult women in Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany. Technology careers represent a high-growth occupation that pays well and is very conducive to remote work (working from home or a satellite office instead of relocating to a metro area).

“We want to ensure that every young girl in our community has the opportunity to learn about, explore, and pursue an educational pathway in technology,” said Kristen Macemore, Dean of Business & Public Service Technologies. “We’re attempting to connect with females through events like our High Tech Girls Day and an Information Technology Online Meet & Greet focusing on cybersecurity.”

As part of the initiative, several WCC employees participated in professional development through the National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology & Science (IWITTS) which is a nationally renowned organization focused on ensuring that working women are part of the science and technology landscape. IWITTS strives to bridge the gender gap in technology for women and girls given they have made the fewest inroads in the science and technology workforce and are among those most in need of better jobs.

“I have two daughters,” said Zach Barricklow, VP of Rural Innovation of WCC and Executive Director of NC Tech Paths, “I want them to know there is a world of opportunity available to them in the digital economy – such as a career in technology – that will allow them to enjoy these beautiful mountains, pursue meaningful work, and earn a family-sustaining income.”

WCC employees from across campus participated, including Information Technology faculty and staff, as well as representatives from marketing and recruiting, academic support, Gear-Up, administration, etc. Training was held virtually, facilitated by Donna Milgram, the Executive Director of the National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science.

NC Tech Paths supported the initiative by producing a video, “Women in Tech: Voices from Northwest NC” posted to YouTube and circulated to teachers, parents, and students in the WCC service area.

Additionally, WCC hosted a High Tech Girls Day on campus in Wilkes. Attendees participated in hands-on networking and coding activities related to MerleFest preparation and setup: Wifi and fiber-optic cabling stage setup; programming a mock Merlefest artist webpage; using Javascript. Sessions were led by college personnel as well as industry representatives.

“We are finding that so many girls don’t think about a career in tech until they have had some exposure to it,” said Kristen Macemore. “That’s why Girls in High Tech Day is so important! Each young woman who attended reported significant growth in confidence after a brief introductory coding class. This proves that we can empower more young women to pursue this path if they have the chance!”

Wilkes Community College, a member of the North Carolina Community College System, is a public, two-year, open-door institution serving the people of Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany counties and beyond. Established in 1965, WCC continues to build on a strong history of meeting the educational needs and cultural interests of our students, community, and workforce. WCC prepares learners for success in a dynamic world. To learn more, visit

NC Tech Paths is a non-profit corporation dedicated to establishing Northwest North Carolina as a national leader in fostering rural inclusion in the digital economy through a variety of workforce development, employer partnerships, and entrepreneurial support interventions, all of which allow our neighbors to live, train, and remain in the area.