The importance of exposing STEM to young girls
Today, the majority of college graduates are women (57%), yet women only make up 20% of bachelors degrees in Computer Science and Engineering. Young students - boys and girls alike - start to find hobbies and form strong interests around adolescence. This makes middle school an impressionable and very important time to expose students to computer science, especially young girls, at a time when they may be losing interest in math and science.
This past week, Delphix sponsored Code it! at MIT. Code it! is a three-day all-day program to expose middle school girls to computer programming. The program is 100% student-organized and run by undergraduate women studying CS at MIT. Participants included approximately 45 mentors (MIT students) and 30 local middle school girls (all with zero computer programming experience). Activities included lab tours on-campus, lessons on basic programming concepts like loops and arrays, and a tour of Google's office in Cambridge.
The night before the program started, I took several student mentors to dinner. As an icebreaker, I had everyone introduce themselves, and share with the group how they were initially exposed to programming. A few were lucky to have opportunities to take classes offered at their respective high schools, and a few had family members with engineering backgrounds who simply "grew up with it."
There was another significant handful of women who had participated in programs like Girls Who Code or WTP - programs offered to high school women to expose them to computer programming. I don't know that I had expectations for the dinner conversations going into the evening, but these introductions kicked off an evening of discussions about the discrepancy of the number of men and women in software development.
I learned about Alice's experience as an engineering student at MIT, an account of stereotyping summed up by "Yes, I'm blonde. And yes, I attend MIT." I heard from international students on their take on the issue as visiting students to America. And I spoke with one woman who is choosing to go into consulting because it seems she enjoys the safe space that MIT offers to pursue technology, but wants to be surrounded by more diversity when it comes to thinking about her career.
The common consensus was a shared sentiment for the importance and value of exposing girls to computer programming as early as possible, like the Code it! program does. The expectation with this program is not to push girls in the engineering field, but to expose them to what it has to offer and make them aware of its opportunities. Hobbies and strong interests start to form around adolescence, and late in high school or college can be too late to get introduced to the field.
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Code it! Program on behalf of Delphix, and I look forward to continuing to support this inspiring and impactful program. Delphix actively supports young students in STEM through various initiatives including Artemis, the Delphix Scholarship for Women in Technology, and Angel Sharks (our internal philanthropy group that has chosen STEM outreach to pre-college aged kids as the theme for the year).
Our contributions are hopefully a testament to our inclusive culture and diverse team, and is our part in helping to close the gap of women in our own industry. We look forward to continuing to support these programs, and others in the future!