Penny Collins

She is empowering more single mothers to enter the STEAM workforce.

As president and CEO of Women in Technology (WIT), Penny Collins is passionate about seeing women and girls of all ages excel in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math)—from the classroom to the boardroom. In 2019, Collins developed the WIT Single Mothers Education Program, which provides supportive services, such as childcare, transportation, equipment, meals, coaching, and job placement in cybersecurity, for 40 disadvantaged single mothers (earning $30,000 or less) each year. The participants take a 12-week-long cybersecurity certificate course
through Emory University.

The idea was sparked by Collins’s own personal journey of entering the workforce as a single mother. “When I first came to Atlanta, I did not have a college education and didn’t even know how to use a computer,” she says. “I was a single mother of two living in poverty and about to get evicted. I got a job as a part-time admin, and it was the women around me who taught me everything about technology. That’s when I decided that once I got on my feet, I would give back.”

Collins initially connected with WIT while working at First Data, a financial services company, and she quickly saw firsthand that there weren’t enough women in the STEAM workforce. She started working toward giving diverse communities more exposure and a voice at the table, in turn promoting creativity and innovation in products and solutions.

She launched the WIT YoPros (young professionals) program and the WIT Career ConneXions program, which aims to train and place women in rewarding and well-paid technology careers. Collins attributes the successes of the programs to Atlanta’s community leaders who lead by example, offering partnerships and sponsorships.

Collins feels strongly about her mission to help both mothers and young women. “Moms are the teachers of the next generation of leaders who will be running our country and organizations. We want to make a conscious eff ort to not leave them behind,” she says.