"We need people with talent, we need people with passion, and I think that's very much ingrained in the tech culture of the 20-to-30-something perhaps," Corbett says. "We don't think of specific demographics, and probably because of that we need to be reminded to. Because while we can say, 'Oh, that's not something we worry about because we don't have that problem,' right there's the problem because you're not thinking about it."
Then, too, there is a challenge of perception. Despite the flowering of the social Web, mobile apps and all manner of chic new technologies, IT, as a profession, is still widely viewed as profoundly unhip, often imagined as "developers who sit alone in their basement and code," according to Liz Steininger.
Steininger is the head organizer of Rails Girls D.C., a local chapter of a movement that originated in Helsinki, Finland, to provide training for women in Web development using Ruby on Rails.
The workshops Steininger's group holds are meant to "make it fun and social to learn technology," she says, explaining that even if the participants don't opt to pursue work in Web development, the sessions at least "help women be code-literate," a crucial skill at a time when technology is seeping into every corner of a business's operations.
"Tech and software are now running our lives, pretty much in every aspect," Steininger says.
Johnson carries that same message of relevance in her outreach work. She described a recent meeting with students at Morgan State University, when some says they were interested in a career in event planning, which they regarded as a decidedly non-technical field. Johnson asked if they had heard of Eventbrite and other similar online services, making the point that technical skills help provide a professional foundation, regardless of what path a career takes.
"I think it's important to make it relevant. Tech is in everything," she says.
Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for CIO.com.
Read more about careers in CIO's Careers Drilldown.