By Kafilah Muhammad '18
For many women of color the world of computer science is overwhelmingly unrepresentative of people like themselves. According to an article on USA today, on average, just 2% of technology workers at seven Silicon Valley companies that have released staffing numbers are black; 3% are Hispanic.
The numbers of women who actually fill these positions is considerably low. There are several reasons why many women tend to not want to pursue a career in the field of computer science but one of the first is exposure. If women aren’t exposed to the several niches and worlds that computer science plays a major role in they never gain interest in the field.
Luckily, the summer before my senior year of High School I was able to participate in a wonderful program called Girls Who Code. From learning the basics of web design, python and mobile app-development to meeting daily with engineers from several companies such as Microsoft and Google, the experience in itself was life changing. In a room full of girls and an incredibly accomplished teacher, I was constantly exposed to new knowledge of what computer science can do every day.
My summer in Girls Who Code was a great experience because it not only allowed me to see that computer science was more than just sitting at a desk and coding all day. There are several aspects of the technological world that harvest and necessitate a need for creativity and community. What was also significant about the experience was that it created a community of girls who were all introduced to computer science at different times in their lives, but were there to support one another. My peers always lended a hand to those struggling during the final projects stage. The community that Girls Who Code has created is still thriving now and with the supportive network that has been cultivated, I’ve gone on too see my peers do incredible things. It’s also opened the door for me to get experience–this summer I’m interning at Vimeo honing my PHP skills.
What being a part of the organization taught me has been invaluable, and one thing that I feel is important when trying to encourage and expose more women and students of color to the field of computer science is support. Creating helpful and nourishing environments in which individuals can succeed at their own pace is vital. The experience was a sublime one, and I hope that one-day the world of tech evolves to be one of a diverse and supportive image.