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Students from over 40 schools across the country gathered at Maxwell Dworkin and Northwest Labs this past weekend to listen to female professionals and attend workshops by technology companies such as Google and Microsoft at the second annual WECode conference.
According to Emi F. Nietfeld '15, WECode external relations co-chair, roughly 500 students attended the event this year, more than double the number at last year’s gathering of 200.
Nietfeld said the main objective of the conference was to build community among women in technology. She recalled a male professor who spoke on a panel at WECode last year.
“He came to us afterwards and said he was really disoriented and it was a super eye-opening experience for him,” she said. “...to be the only guy in a sea of women, he said, this is how my female colleagues must have felt at technical conferences all along.”
In addition to workshops and panels, WECode featured keynote speeches by Dona Sarkar from Microsoft, Marie Louise Kirk of Goldman Sachs, and Parisa Tabriz of Google. The event also showed a video from Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl K. Sandberg ’91 addressing the attendees and a presentation of how to launch “Lean In” circles at college campuses. The event closed on Sunday with an interactive Puzzle Day.
“While a lot of women start out college as CS and engineering majors,” Dona Sarkar said, they do not continue with those fields through graduation. She emphasized the need to build mentorship networks in order to encourage more women to pursue science and technology.
Emily S. Wang ’18 said she appreciated the focus on building solidarity. “Because we’re all in the same boat and all face similar challenges, we can learn from each other, and I think that can be really helpful,” she said.
The conference underwent a handful of changes this year, such as replacing a hack-a-thon with a Puzzle Day.
Aida Zhumabekova, a junior at Mt. Holyoke College, said she appreciated the collaborative nature of the Puzzle Day over the hack-a-thon.
“It’s more about empowering. It’s not about competition anymore,” she said. “Maybe it’s even better because you don’t think of people you meet as rivals, you think of them as friends. This is an opportunity to learn.”
—Staff writer Melanie Y. Fu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MelanieYFu.
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