Last year two Stanford students started an organization with a simple goal that could bring upon huge changes to the field of computer science. The group called, she++ (a take on C++) is intended to encourage women to enroll in computer science and tech related majors at colleges nationwide.
Currently, around 57% of undergraduates that earn diplomas are women and they make up about half of all mathematics and science degrees. Nevertheless, a huge discrepancy lies in the tiny 18% of women that contribute to information tech or CS majors.
Stanford students Anya Agarwal and Ellona Israni say that their biggest influence to join the hi-tech field came from meeting role models they knew the could some day become. But, once enrolled in CS classes, they saw a lack of women role models available to students so they decided to do something about this. To do this they gathered people to form she++ and they also organized the first ever conference on women in tech at Stanford in 2012.
This year, they are doing it again but this time they have put together a short 12-minute documentary with plenty of statistics, accumulated facts, and many inspiring stories from women that have succeeded in the fields of computer science, software and hi-tech design. The film includes stories from high school girls, women CS majors, female founders, Stanford academics, female CEOs and Silicon Valley venture capitalists. In a short trailer, we hear eye-opening and encouraging words from Facebook’s own Director of Engineering, Jocelyn Goldfien.
The she++ founders say that as technology spreads, all demographics need to contribute accordingly. If women were represented in CS and tech majors proportionally to their graduation rate, the number of qualified people that could fill new computer science jobs would nearly double. At a time when only 30% of American students could fill the estimated 1.4 million CS job vacancies opening in the next few years, a rise in women CS graduates would greatly contribute to the country growing itself.
Between 2000 and 2009 there was a drop of 79% in the number of female first-year undergrads considering CS degrees. Agarwal and Israni want to challenge women to change this trend and challenge the cultural stereotype concerning the gender of CS majors.
The film, encouraging the making of “femgineers,” wills premier April 1st, 2013 (for some reason it is rated TV-14… guess this type of revolutionary thinking is precarious for minors…). The conference, she++ 2.0, will be held at Stanford again commencing April 20, 2013.
On their website, sheplusplus.stanford.edu, you can access a class that uses MIT’s Android App Inventor to teach basic drag-and-drop programming as a small introduction to software development. They also link to a Stanford introductory CS class, which can be downloaded on iTunes. Spread the word and remember share with all the ladies.