When it comes to women in computer science, industry stats present a pretty bleak picture. For example, since 1990 the percentage of female computing professionals has dropped from 35% to about 24% today, and according to Girls Who Code, if that trend continues, the share of women in the nation’s computing workforce will decline to 22% by 2025. While these stats serve as a good rallying cry for the industry, I choose to remain optimistic and energized about how far we’ve come and the incredible amount of change that has happened since I was in school.
When I was studying computer science at UCSB over 15 years ago, I made it through my undergraduate years with the support of my friend, roommate, and often the only other woman in class, Patty. There were a few programs aimed at women in engineering, such as the Society of Women Engineers, but they were difficult to find and always seemed to have low participation. There was definitely no such thing as an all-women hackathon, and I never had the opportunity to meet with women in the industry to show me the possibilities of my future career. I am so grateful for the friendship and support I did have, but I am heartened by how much the resources for women in computer science have grown since then.
Fast forward to today, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of the super talented engineering team at Invoca, which continues to grow and become more diverse. That being said, we don’t have bragging rights yet. Attracting more women to the team is a priority and I’ve become closely involved in that effort. Over the past six months I’ve participated in a variety of initiatives — from reviewing resumes for female computer science students at UCSB and participating in their mentorship lunch program to speaking on the “Navigating the Tech World” panel organized by Women in Computer Science (WiCS) and driving Invoca to sponsor several all-women hackathons including <Womxn/Hacks> and AthenaHacks.
Through these activities, in addition to ongoing recruiting efforts, I’ve learned a lot about the current landscape for women in computer science, especially for new graduates. By sharing the following key learnings, my hope is that others in similar roles get inspired to take action inside and outside their organizations to get more women involved in computer science.
- Diversity and inclusion is top of mind for new female computer science graduates. Instead of accepting the status quo, they will ask the tough questions about diversity stats and inclusion efforts at your company. And with the high demand for new computer science graduates, they do not need to settle for a company where they will not feel welcome.
- Provide opportunities for female students to talk with your company’s successful female engineers in an informal setting. Seeing people who look like them, who have gone through the journey they’re currently going through, confirms that it is possible and helps buoy them through more difficult times.
- In addition to providing mentorship, really listen to what they have to say. They are in the middle of the journey and they will have insights you may not have thought about. Ask them what their plans are; ask them if anything is holding them back; and ask them how you can help.
If you’re interested in learning more about engineering careers at Invoca, check out our openings here. And if you’d like to chat about women in computer science—especially in Santa Barbara—I’m all ears! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.