I am passionate about changing the gender gap in technology. Given my own experience working at software companies (and my female colleagues) as well as my personal experience with my young daughter’s ability solve technical problems and program robots and games, the issues causing the gender gap is not about innate ability but something else. I’ve noticed amongst my friends, I tend to be the few women who work in technology – the others are doctors, lawyers, professors, social workers, managers, and teachers. Why didn’t any of them choose a technical career? It seems a lot of women self-select out of pursing education and careers in information technology. Why? Well, if I knew that I wouldn’t have the job I do. But, I’m guessing that somewhere along the way they just don’t get a chance to see how much fun working with technology can be (and how could they could be doing it)! So, to help solve that problem, I got together with a computer science professor at my alma mater, Kalamazoo College to start the first Girls Who Code Club in our area. Over the last two years, we’ve seen our club grow and I’m always impressed by the enthusiasm and skill the girls bring to the club. I’m the most excited by the things our girls go on to do with technology. One of our girls from last year took a computer science in her first year at Kalamazoo College. And one of our girls this year has gone on to Cornell where she wants to do a combined major in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Another girl from last year – who had absolutely NO previous computer programming experience – went on to place 2nd in Toshiba’s nationwide Innovation competition ExploraVision with a website dedicated to helping people who learn better visually. Yet another girl attended Lake Superior State University Technology and Engineering Camp over the summer. Will all of our girls go on to technological careers? I am sure not! But, if we can make allow some of them to realize the possibilities that exist, I think we have succeeded.
This spring two of our girls participated in the Girls Solve IT competition sponsored by Michigan Council of Women in Technology and Ford. Not to brag, but our girls came in third place, which I count as a win! In the picture, you can see some of us playing with the robot from the competition. Dash is really fun to work with and we had a blast in the competition.