History & Origin

Our Founder’s vision

Our founder, Dr. Judith Spitz, former CIO of Verizon, saw that driving gender equity in tech would require innovation beyond the corporate sector. Partnering with Cornell Tech, she founded Break Through Tech as an agent of collaboration between industry and academia. Her vision: to bring together the supply and demand sides of a city’s tech pipeline and create opportunities for college women and non-binary students from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to pursue degrees and careers in tech.

Early days in New York City

Break Through Tech’s first chapter began in 2016, under the name WiTNY, or Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York. With support from a number of corporations, including Verizon and Accenture as founding sponsors, we partnered with the City University of New York (CUNY). Our goal: To increase the number of women and non-binary students graduating with degrees in computer science and related tech disciplines, and to serve as a role model for cities around the nation.

Our signature Sprinternship program was born: a micro-internship experience designed to break down the barriers that so often keep diverse college women and non-binary students  from landing the coveted tech internships that are essential to securing entry-level jobs in tech

New York City

From 2016–2019, CUNY made great progress toward the goal of doubling the number of women majoring in computer science. 

CUNY women declaring computer science and related disciplines as their major increased 61.5%.
CUNY women graduating with bachelors degrees in computer science and related disciplines increased 95.4%.

Based on program outcomes from Break Through Tech New York and likely impacted by a number of programs.

Of the students who participated in Sprinternships™ and were seeking a tech internship, 50% landed one that summer.

Based on program outcomes from Break Through Tech New York.

Growth and expansion

In 2019, buoyed by the results we were seeing with CUNY students (including a 61.5% increase in women students majoring in Computer Science and related disciplines, and a 95.4% increase in women graduating with those degrees), we knew it was time to begin replicating our programming model in other cities. WiTNY became Break Through Tech, and Melinda French Gates’s Pivotal Ventures, the Cognizant Foundation, and Verizon signed on as investors in our ambitious vision.

  • 2020: We launch our Computing program in Chicago in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities, a like-minded organization working at the city level to build a more inclusive future in tech. 
  • 2021: We expand our Computing program to the Washington, DC metro area, in partnership with the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), and George Mason University (GMU).
  • 2022: We launch our Computing program in Miami in partnership with Florida International University (FIU). We also launched our AI Program, focusing on data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Our AI Program is currently hosted in Boston at the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, in Los Angeles at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, or virtually outside of these metropolitan areas. Our AI Program focuses on the fastest-growing areas of tech: data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. 
  • Read about our continued progress in our 2023 Year-in-Review

What’s next

Inspired by our students and their breakthroughs in tech, we are excited to keep learning, iterating, and growing in more cities nationwide. If you’d like to be part of our next chapter, we’d love to hear from you.

Connect with us.