STEM NOW: Inspiring Women to Become Technology Designers
As we stand today in 2015, the world runs on code. Whether for business or pleasure, technology is built, utilized, and consumed to make an impact. As ubiquitous as technology is, I am left wondering why only a handful of girls are in most of my computer science classes. A recent Newsweek article, “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women”, blames the underrepresentation of women in Silicon Valley on a sexist and cruel work environment. Painting Silicon Valley as backwards, using a misogynist scene from the 1950’s where females have very little chance of success, is not only exceptionally misinformed, it is downright dangerous. Women need computer skills in the 21st century. Companies need a diverse workforce to strengthen collaboration, problem solving, and innovation. The serious gender gap in technology poses an urgent problem: how do we inspire more women to pursue careers in Computer Science? I believe STEM exposure at all educational levels is key to raising the number of girls and women in Computer Science.
As a graduating senior (Spring 2015) in Computer Science at San Jose State University, I have an unquenchable passion for all things code. But unlike so many others in my major, I haven’t been coding my whole life. In fact, my journey in computer science started only three years ago, when all I knew of my direction was that I loved math. At the recommendation of the dean of engineering at my local community college, I enrolled in a beginning Java class and was hooked on programming ever since. In three short years, I devoured all the computer science I could; from my first “Hello World” script, to designing, building, and implementing professional dynamic web applications. So don’t ever think you can’t succeed in computer science if you don’t have any experience with it; as with anything, all you really need to learn programming is curiosity and passion. I’m grateful for finding guidance to a realm so spectacularly interwoven with brilliant threads of creativity and logic, spun to encapsulate and examine the limitless bounds of imagination. Based on my experience, I feel that not everybody receives an adequate introduction to coding. This is why I urge a call to action: exposure to STEM technology while practicing heuristic scientific thinking in the classroom. However idealistic to implement in California classrooms, this idea breathes life through the joint efforts of San Jose State’s STEM NOW and Girls Who Code organizations.
STEM NOW (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Network of Women) at San Jose State University is contributing to the advancement of STEM education by providing a supportive network for women that encourages participation to benefit members with expanded career opportunities and personal growth. STEM NOW functions to bridge the gap between middle school, high school, college, and professional level women, allowing our organization to uniquely extend support and connect the community at all stages of learning. Collaborating with Girls Who Code, STEM NOW hosts weekly workshops where middle and high school students engage in software projects with guidance from instructors and SJSU students. We hope to stimulate curiosity and excitement by providing an encouraging environment to learn and play with technologies not offered in the standard classroom. STEM NOW also organizes: forward-thinking hackathons – with at least one woman on each team; professional, cutting-edge workshops to sharpen student skills; and conference admission to learn and expand our growing network. I am so proud to participate in an organization that takes action to bridge the gender gap in STEM.
Technology plays a massive role in our day-to-day lives, advancing exponentially to connect people and solve problems. People who build technology influence and shape our world. This is why it is so important to talk about more women entering careers in STEM; having the conversation is a first step toward progress. If you are interested in STEM NOW or Girls Who Code, please the visit the websites below to get involved. The future is brightly illuminated with computer screens; let’s make sure future generations of women are designing and building them.