by Tony Moore
Here’s something you probably wouldn’t guess: Back in 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Through 2022, that number is predicted to be just 22%.
The reasons for the downtrend are varied. But on a mission to reverse it is Girls Who Code, an advocacy group that’s been petitioning both local and federal legislatures to help get girls and women back into computer science. On the grassroots level, the organization works through its more than 1,500 clubs across the U.S., hosting educational events and providing an arena for women and girls with an interest in computer science to meet up.
And Dickinson has a chapter of its own, through the organization's College Loop program.
“We founded this club because we wanted to create a safe space for women in STEM to gather outside of the classroom,” says Pamela Ortiz ’22 (computer science), who notes that the club is, before anything, a community where women learn together and support each other. “We want members to express themselves without feeling forced to interact or talk about the difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated field.”
On Feb. 10, Dickinson is hosting a fireside chat with Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, an event aiming to bring awareness both to the problems inherent in the gender disparity and ways more girls and women can get involved in computer science.
“Clubs like Girls Who Code are so important in closing the gender gap in computer science and related fields,” says Jill Forrester, Dickinson’s interim CIO and interim vice president of information services, who served as an early resource for Dickinson’s Girls Who Code club and will moderate the Feb. 10 chat. “And the networks that develop at the college level can also provide academic support as well as highlight career opportunities that are available.”
Dickinson’s Girls Who Code club—run exclusively by students—features a lot of coding-specific activities, but a general interest in STEM fields is the only prerequisite for joining.
The club is in good hands, as both Ortiz and Egorova are passionate about the broad applications of coding and are evangelical about how multifaceted the field really is.
“I love everything about coding! It can be challenging, analytical, creative, humanitarian and personal," says Ortiz. “With code, your day-to-day artist can become a website developer, earth scientists can use GIS to analyze geographical data and developers can contribute technology that helps those in need.”
With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why both Ortiz and Egorova are looking ahead to careers in the field—and view Girl Who Code as a way to get more women to embrace that path as well.
“We want to show women that they belong in the tech world and that a computer science major is worth pursuing,” says Egorova. “And Dickinson's computer science program has recently expanded the course offerings and now has more classes that offer exposure to technologies that are used in industry, which is very helpful for starting our career.”
Students who want more information about Dickinson's Girls Who Code Club can contact the club via email at email@example.com.
Published February 3, 2022