I ended up in a coding career entirely by accident. I took a computer science class during my freshman year of college to avoid taking biology. I shouldn’t have even gotten into the class; I listed Intro to Computer Science as my last choice, and it’s always one of the first classes to fill up. But somehow–maybe by fate–I ended up taking that course.
From STEM Education to Tech-focused Career
I always did well in school, but it never came as quickly to me as my fellow students. Computer Science was different. At first, I thought it was just an easy class. It wasn’t until much further into the semester that I realized everyone else was struggling through problems that appeared common sense to me. For me, coding felt like solving puzzles, and I loved it. It only took me one computer science class to convince me to switch my major.
I majored in math and computer science. Especially in math, frequently, I was one of the very few women in classes dominated by men. While I never felt they looked down on me, I always felt the need to prove myself. I am thankful for my professors for encouraging me, but I was very intimidated at times. I felt the need to represent my gender well. It seemed like it was my responsibility to show everyone that girls are capable. I felt like if I didn’t do better than all the men, I was letting down the women. It would have been a lot easier had there been more women to support each other in my classes.
When I entered the workforce as a software developer at Zylo, I knew that the ratio of women to men in my field would not be any better. I can understand why these ratios might turn young women away from STEM courses, especially if they see that these fields as dominated by men from a young age. If we want to change these ratios and support women going into STEM, we need to start teaching and supporting them from a young age.
Encouraging More Gender Equality in STEM and Tech Careers
At Zylo, one way that we’re helping get girls (and boys) excited about STEM opportunities is by participating in The Eureka! Exchange, which takes a first step towards introducing kids to STEM. This event, hosted at the Indy Women in Tech LPGA Championship, brings in more than 1,000 Central Indiana 5th and 6th graders over three days to learn about coding and technology. Opportunities like this are exactly what we need to inspire young people, particularly girls, to learn to code.
This event gives students a small glance at all the possibilities available to them through coding. It also inspires them to start thinking about a tech career at a young age. If they start learning when they are kids, they are much more likely to have confidence in their ability to code. Confidence is key. Girls who believe strongly in their abilities won’t be afraid to break barriers.
The Eureka! Exchange also gives girls interactions with women–like me–who work professionally in software development. It gives them role models. They can see women who have made it and who are thriving in a field where they are a minority. It is much easier to believe you can do something when you see and look up to people who have already done it.
Inspiring Gender Equality, One Career at a Time
Opportunities like the Eureka! Exchange are what inspire and encourage girls. I believe this encouragement from a young age is what we need to do to get girls more interested in STEM. Some day, these girls will grow up and encourage the next generation of girls to enter STEM careers. This is how change happens, slowly but surely.
The workplace for STEM fields will not achieve a 50-50 ratio of men to women overnight. But it is my hope that if I and every other woman in my position keep encouraging young girls and women and being a role model for them, that every day another young woman will have the courage to go into STEM.