Fight against the zombie apocalypse!
This semester, I've really been trying to get more involved in volunteering and outreach. So last month, I joined an all-women team in the computer science department that focuses on recruiting girls, especially high school seniors, for UTCS. Efforts for this cause include sending postcards, calling, emailing, and hosting an event just for prospective girls at ExploreUT (the computer science program at ExploreUT itself will be filled with amazing events for anyone interested).
I've been volunteering my time at these specific organizations because I personally think trying to get more girls into STEM, especially computer science, is a no-brainer. But recently, after being violently reminded that no, not all people think this, and that misogyny is alive and kicking in the tech industry, I decided we all needed a friendly reminder on why it's so important to have more girls in STEM.
I suppose the biggest problem to tackle is apathy. A lot of people don't care that less than 20% of women hold degrees in computer science and engineering, and worse, they don't see why it matters. Well, why it matters is because of old-fashioned stereotypes, almost half of the world's workforce's brilliant minds are not being put to use solving the world's most crucial problems. Computer science is all about approaching a problem in various different ways and trying to come up the most efficient and effective solution. And the easiest way to do this is to get as varied a perspective on a particular problem as possible. It is in literally everyone's best interests to encourage and nurture a girl's interests in computer science and engineering from an early age.
And yes, I said we should foster these practices from an early age because that is the most vital time to do so. People definitely, whether subconsciously or not, push young boys towards STEM related activities more than they do for girls. This sort of division between girls and boys automatically snowballs as they grow older and because of these reinforced stereotypes, they feel like they have defined paths in life set out for them, when in fact, the absolute opposite is true. But we have to start from the beginning. We have to instill in children the notion that gender does not have to dictate what you do in life.
I guess I liken the problem of the gender gap in STEM to a zombie: it's gross and it cannot be allowed to overtake us. But we must be ever vigilant in the fight to lessen the chasm between genders in the workplace and hack away at the stereotypes and prejudices that plague careers in STEM.
So in the vein of encouraging the girls in your lives to pursue STEM careers, tell them about First Bytes! This is an amazing one week summer camp that UTCS hosts for high school girls wanting to know more about computer science. If any eligible applicants are reading this, the deadline to apply is March 22.