Refinery29 is partnering with Girls Who Code for the #MarchForSisterhood on International Day of the Girl. This is the first-ever all-digital global march. Come back each day this week to learn about why different young women are participating, and join us as we #MarchForSisterhood on any of your social media channels this Friday, October 11, 2019.
Three years into the computer science major, I’ve long gotten used to seeing that an overwhelming amount of my professors, teaching assistants, and classmates are male. It has, unfortunately, become normal for me to be pleasantly surprised when I find out that a professor or teaching assistant is female. You’ve probably heard this story before, perhaps so much that it’s become repetitive. But I’ll repeat it again: It is 2019, 70 years since the invention of programming, and a huge gender gap in the tech industry still exists.
Every business is now a software business. The daily use of computer-programmed tools in business workflows heavily contributes to the shaping of our communities, industries, and our world. The lack of women in tech consequently means the lack of opportunity for women to impact our rapidly growing world. As each day passes where software is developed without contributions of diverse perspectives, the gaps widen between us and the multiple efforts we’re marching for.
Research shows that this gender imbalance in tech stems from the different ways in which children are raised. Young boys are given computers, gaming consoles, and tech-related toys, while girls are given household-themed toys. At an early age, girls are already taught the idea that they do not belong in tech, when really, their contributions are significant. This is why I believe so strongly in the #MarchForSisterhood movement and the efforts of Girls Who Code — showing girls what they’re capable of, the existence of the communities in which they belong, and how they can learn to code to work on projects they believe in. These efforts go way beyond the computer screen — they change the world.
I’ve always had a great interest in tech. I grew up with a desktop computer, playing early 2000’s games and making digital paintings, and I participated in the Girls Who Code and 3D printing clubs later in high school. Interestingly, I hadn’t thought about a role in tech until I watched a TED Talk, where Danielle Feinberg from Pixar presented the immersion of tech and art behind animation. This inspiration, along with the skills I learned in the clubs, led me to switch out of the pre-medicine path and apply directly for Computer Science tracks at universities, before I had even taken any CS courses.
Sisterhood and the sense of community are two of the key ways I juggled chasing my dreams and imposter syndrome. For the past three years, I’ve dreamed of working as a technical director for the animation industry to foster the collaborative work of artists and engineers. I remember as a freshman girl in my CS courses feeling small and incompetent of ever achieving such a dream. However, once I spoke to more women in tech and Girls Who Code alumni at hackathons and conferences, I faced my fears, felt motivated to seize opportunity, and became more confident. Sophomore year I went on to network with amazing industry professionals, became secretary of my university’s CS club, and co-found my university’s first on-campus hackathon. This year, I began attending larger, intimidating conferences and taking more rigorous computing courses — all with excitement rather than fear. Moreover, the confidence I gained from this community and as a computer scientist started influencing my personal life, making me more confident and self-loving in areas that I had low self esteem for a long time. Becoming a software engineer and being part of the women in tech community changed my life and my mindset.
How can we foster sisterhood? We march for it! As a Girls Who Code alum, working with the team to support other alumni is one way I contribute to the community I’ve gained so much from. Seeing the act of raising each other up, reminding each other of our worth, and sharing advice and my experiences with younger women aspiring to go into tech are large contributors to creating impactful sisterhood communities. To always listen to other’s perspectives and pass on our own, we create an ongoing, sturdy chain of support. Here’s to marching for sisterhood, fostering growth, and supporting women in the tech industry.
Kamile Demir is a senior Computer Science major and Digital Arts minor at Stony Brook University, as well as the Girls Who Code Alumni Team intern. Hobbies include traveling, painting, and bedazzling her Instagram pictures.