As of January 2013, there were 41 declared computer science majors at Trinity University, and of those 41 majors, nine were women.
Although the gender discrepancy in fields such as law and medicine has evened out over the last few decades, women in computer science are still significantly underrepresented. In response to this, first year Kylie Moden recently created the Women in Computing Club on campus that supports these women and encourages them enter the field of computer science.
“Throughout high school I was involved with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), which gets you into this community of fellow girls, and that’s how I learned the value of having a Women in Computing group supporting you,” Moden said.
For many of the Trinity faculty members, including Paul Myers, professor and chair of the computer science department, the Women in Computing Club is long overdue.
“It’s been a priority of mine for some time to try to encourage women to go into computer science and support them while they’re here, but I just never really implemented much other than in my own personal advising,” Myers said. “Then out of the middle of nowhere comes Moden. She made an appointment with me to see if the department would be interested in this club, and after giving her the initial hard time I told her to come in and said that it is really a dream come true.”
The main focus of Women in Computing is to provide support for women who are interested in computing, as well as to show women different professional development and education opportunities and make members aware of the statistics in the computer science industry. For example, a recent study showed that over the past fiscal year, more women were hired in the industry, but that the retention rate is quite low.
“I joined Women in Computing for networking. It’s a great network of people that will help you get internships and jobs and it just seems silly not to take advantage of it,” said junior Samantha Lavallee. “It’s another resource and almost all of my computer science friends are males, so it’s good to meet other females.”
This past weekend, members of the Women in Computing Club, including Moden and Lavallee, drove 15 hours to Lake Guntersville, Ala., to participate in the Southeast Women in Computing Conference. The conference included keynote speakers and seminars on topics ranging from cloud computing research to résumé workshops to preparing for job interviews.
“One really cool talk was given by Ruthe Farmer, director of Strategic Initiatives at NCWIT, about the Sit With Me campaign, in which people sit down to take a stand on women in computing and how there needs to be a focus on this in education,” Moden said. “Famous people that are leaders in the industry sit in the chair, like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and they share a story about their experiences helping women in the computing field. The campaign sounds cool, and we might be trying to implement a Sit With Me campaign here on campus.”
On Dec. 12, the Women in Computing Club is having a Christmas party. They will air the documentary “she++” and, if possible, demonstrate 3-D printing with the AT&T Center for Learning and Technology’s new printer. Women in Computing is open to anyone who identifies with computing and coding, such as a web developer that also works with the art department or a math major that likes to code.
“Women in Computing is overdue, and it’s just wonderful that it’s finally happening now because computer science is still an area where women are hugely underrepresented,” Myers said. “It’s just starting, so the sky’s the limit now.”