Why to empower women in Computer Science?
“That’s just for boys!” is a common remark heard among young girls. In fact, my younger sister recently made that comment to me when I asked her if she played a certain videogame. While the context might be innocent or inane, it’s alarming how many things are deemed to be “for boys” when, in reality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Science- and technology-related fields of study and employment are often treated this way, even though women have historically been at the forefront of groundbreaking scientific and technological advancements. From Ada Lovelace to Katherine Johnson, knowledge of prominent female figures in STEM careers are difficult to come by, although recently more and more stores about these women have surfaced in mainstream media. It is easy to see how young girls internalize the “boys only” misconception when so many of the facts circulated in science and technology appear to be dominated by men.
Women code too
Ada Lovelace was a talented mathematician born in 1815. Ada took to mathematics at an early age, and was able to study math at the collegiate level. While translating an article about an invention created by her mentor, Ada was able to share some of her own ideas about the machine, along with notes on how computer code could be written to give the device repeatable instructions. Because of this, she is considered by many to be the world’s first computer programmer.
The story of Katherine Johnson was recently featured in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Katherine was an incredibly gifted woman. At the age of 10, she was a freshman in high school. She started working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, later known as NASA, in 1952. Her job title? Computer. Young women were hired at the time to perform calculations, even when NASA began to use actual computers for these tasks. Katherine’s mathematical skills were so virtuosic that her job was to double-check the work of the machines! In 2015, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Female influences in computer science are not relegated only to historical contributions. Over the past few years Samaira Mehta has been featured in the news and invited to speak at conferences for her work as a programmer — a title she earned at 6 years old! Her work has helped children all across the country learn to code.
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