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Students Discuss Women in Technology Industry

By Joanna R. Schacter, Contributing Writer

A group of Harvard College students gathered Wednesday night for a roundtable discussion about women’s futures in technology. The meeting, led by four women with successful careers in the field, was organized by the Harvard College Women’s Center.

“We need to get more women into the field,” said Jeanne Ross, a researcher at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a technology management professional.

“I meet very few women in my work,” Ross said. In fact, she said, of the 90 chief information officers whom she works with, 87 are men.

In addition to Ross, the talk was spearheaded by representatives from Girl Develop It, a non-profit organization offering low-cost computer language classes to women, outreach, and support for women in computer science.

Part of the discussion centered around computer science instruction here at Harvard.

One participant from the College said that while she does not like CS50, she likes coding.

It would appear that while only 38 percent of students enrolled in CS50 are female, and there is less of a presence in upper-level CS courses, Harvard is seeing more women entering the field than in the past, perhaps because of CS50.

A senior explained that as a child, she had wanted to grow up to be a woman who wore a suit. However, as she watched the women around her become nurses, teachers, or take on other nurturing roles, she did not feel confident about what jobs she could work toward as a girl.

Another student expressed the frustration she experiences, when she is pitching business ideas and is not taken as seriously­­—and does not spark the same level of interest—as she feels she would were she a man.

But there are opportunities out there for women, Ross said.

In addition to Girl Develop It, organizations like Betaspring, Startup Institute, and the Harvard Innovation Lab all offer opportunities for learning, and can serve as startup incubators that help young developers find venture capitalists and prepare to launch companies, she said.

Furthermore, according to Ross, job security in the technology sector is not an issue: there are many jobs and many options, as “only the uninteresting jobs went offshore.”

While there are deeply-rooted reasons for which there are far fewer women going into computer science than men, Girl Develop It is working to create a place where women feel comfortable learning about a field that men still tend to dominate in terms of sheer numbers. According to one of the representatives from the organization, girls should not be on the fence about pursuing computer science.

“We’re going to change this,” she said.

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