5 Questions With The Director Of CODE: Debugging The Gender Gap

Photo: Courtesy of Jon Blomgren.
CODE: Debugging The Gender Gap isn’t a whiny film bemoaning the state of women in the technology industry. Debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival Sunday, CODE explores the reasons for the lack of diversity in computer science and then asks the question — what would society gain from having more women and minorities code?

Robin Hauser Reynolds, the film’s director and producer, has a daughter that studied computer science in college. There, her daughter was routinely one of two women in a class of 35, started losing confidence in her abilities (saying “I’m bad at this, the guys know so much more about this than I do”), and eventually dropped out. Between this and other stories from colleagues, Reynolds sought to find the answer to how there could be such an incredible supply-demand imbalance in science and engineering, and yet how can it be so difficult for women to get through the pipeline in school and survive startup culture.

To find an answer, Reynolds spoke with experts in science, computer history, psychology, and mathematics, from places like Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Harvey Mudd College.

We talked with Reynolds about her film, and what she discovered in the process. 
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What is CODE about?
By the year 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs in the U.S., and only 400,000 computer scientists. Tech is growing 3 times faster than we can fill the jobs. How are we going to fill those jobs? This isn’t just a gender or ethnicity issue. This is an economical issue. It’s an exploratory look into what the heck is going on here. 

Who is this film for? 
This is a film that whether you’re my father at 77, a 14 year old boy, you work in startups, or you think you have no interest in tech, you can come in and be entertained and come away learning something. It has a purpose, it has a sense of humor, and we’re getting great feedback. Whether you think your life is affected by tech or not (everyone is affected, it’s in our pockets, in our cars, it’s everywhere) I think this will get people to realize how important it is that we include diversity. How can you have a diverse set of products, or products that serve a greater breadth of diversity, unless you have diversity at the coding level?

What are some interesting things people may learn from CODE?
Some of the first most inspirational, most important people in the history of computing were women. Everybody says names like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, but Grace Hopper termed the word “debugged;” Ada Lovelace wrote the first algorithm. There were more women computer scientists in 1984 than there are now.

What do you hope for people to get out of the film?
It’s a lofty goal, but I hope to inspire change in the stereotypes. I hope we can change the way people see themselves, how people see a computer science engineer. It’s a super cool interactive job. I hope that we inspire change in startup culture to make it more welcoming and comfortable for women and people of color, and change the way that educators teach girls and boys

GoDaddy’s Chief People Officer will be speaking in a panel after the Tribeca Film Festival premier Sunday. I find this kind of ironic, considering GoDaddy has come under fire for their sexist advertisements in the past.
I was very strategic in choosing him. We still think of the first CEO of GoDaddy’s misogynistic acts. But Blake Irving, the CEO of GoDaddy, has only been with the company for 2 years. Blake is very focused on women’s issues; he’s making a big push in his company for being a male ally and role model. They are making big strides in bringing women to the company, to support women in tech. If you can change the corporate culture at GoDaddy you can change it anywhere. 

CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap
is next heading to Geena Davis’ inaugural Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas. Reynolds plans to make an educational cut of the film available to schools, and it will be available broadly in early 2016. In the meantime, a listing of upcoming screenings (there are 3 more in New York!) are available here
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