While women are rising to equality in most fields, a seminar hosted by Central Student Government Wednesday evening discussed the fact that women remain a distinct minority within technology and the sciences.
LSA junior Olivia Luciani, one of two event organizers, alongside Engineering freshman Julia O’Sullivan, expressed the importance of this topic and why she was inspired to coordinate the event.
“Visibility of women in technology and dialogues around diversity in computer science are both very important, at Michigan and nationwide,” Luciani said. “Women have made huge strides in tech industries over the past 50 years, but there are still perceptions some hold that pose unique challenges to women and may stand in the way of true gender parity in the workplace.”
Engineering Prof. Rada Mihalcea introduced the seminar by providing a presentation on why women should become involved in computer science. She shared her excitement regarding the opportunities that are opening for women within the computer-science field, focusing on its versatility and the myriad of innovations to left to discover within the area.
“We need to begin personalizing the way we teach computing to apply to more diverse population,” Mihalcea said.
Mihalcea shared her personal connection to this issue, describing her ongoing efforts to instill a positive attitude toward sciences in her young daughter. Fostering interest and curiosity in middle- and high-school-aged girls in the sciences, she stated, is important for maintaining interest later on.
Following Mihalcea was featured speaker Lauren Holloway, national director of education and culture at We Can Code IT. She began her presentation by asking students to share their personal accounts of what brought them to the fields of engineering and computer science, which resulted in mutual contribution from all the attendants expressing their common interest in supporting women in science, including Engineering freshman Candace Wiwel.
“No problem is going to get solved when you’re only using 50 percent of the population’s input,” Wiwel said.
Holloway continued with a description of her journey to finding coding after graduating from Spelman College and her subsequent work in AmeriCorps. She described the feeling of exclusion she experienced while transitioning into technology, both as a woman and as a person of color. However, she maintained her positive outlook and continued to pursue her goal.
“I had stepped outside of my comfort zone, which had helped me get to the next level,” Holloway said.
Holloway closed the seminar by asking each student to share how they would influence their female peers to become more interested and confident in technology, as she strives to do in her current work at We Can Code IT.
“I decided to stay with We Can Code IT to pull more women, and more people of color, into coding,” she said. “Hopefully, in a less difficult way than I experienced.”