Thoughts on women in tech

My blog has been neglected because I’ve been so busy running the Women’s Javascript Study Group and doing related networking. O’Reilly wants to give us books! Women 2.0 wants to help out! And Women Who Code is going to be our parent group!

This feel-good buzz around women in tech is sobered by the reality: women CS majors are dropping in number, and have been for years. I myself was an art major — the one Java class I took in college was fun and interesting, but then as soon as I hit a wall, no one noticed or helped. I barely passed the class. If there had been a TA available, or if the professor had reached to me and the other couple of women in the large class, it could have made a big difference — and I might have been a Computer Science major.

Carnegie Mellon University simply tried to address this with what frankly sounds like not much effort… and they went from 8% women in undergrad to 42% in five years. So, universities: have 1 person own the effort for diversity in the sciences (not just women are an issue here — other minority groups get even less exposure to the possibility of going into tech), and you might see a big difference for not much cost. Seems like some universities besides CMU are starting to do this, which is heartening.

Why bother? Because it’s fair, and it’s the right thing to do. Because people with money have an easier time shaping society, and the money is in tech. Because it’s more fun to work in a diverse environment with people from all over with different perspectives. Because your customers aren’t all guys (or insert whatever your majority groups are here).

I will keep pursuing the exposure of women to tech skills, and also the exposure of men to women who code. It’s been really positive at my company, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.

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