iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Maurya Couvares

GET UPDATES FROM Maurya Couvares
 

International Women's Day: Celebrating Women in Tech

Posted: 03/08/2013 6:59 am

Women In Tech

ScriptEd, a nonprofit that brings computer programming instruction to students in high need schools, is celebrating International Women's Day. We are highlighting some of the many women who have helped inspire us to bring computer science education to next generation of digital citizens. Currently, only 3 percent of tech startups are led by women, and less than 20 percent of bachelor's degrees in computer science are granted to females. While we work to fix the ratio, these female pioneers are role models to all ScriptEd students and digital civilians.

2013-03-07-Screenshot20130307at3.33.11PM.png

Chrys Wu

Chrys Wu is a journalist, a strategist, a coder and a cook. She is a global and local organizer of Hacks/Hackers, a group that brings journalists, technologists and designers together to reinvent news and civic information. She is also the founder of NYC Ruby Women.

When and how did you get involved in technology?

I learned programming when I was pretty little. I was also part of the era of technologists who used CompuServe, GEnie and Prodigy. Once the web became publicly viable, I taught myself HTML and CSS and started making websites. I was also really interested in working with databases -- computers allowed me to find information in a faster and more far-reaching way than going to the library. (And I love the library.)

Why do you think it's important for people to know how to code?

It's practical. If you want a job, learning to code will help get you one. Right now there are not enough programmers in the workforce to fill all of the jobs available to them. Further, even if you don't want to program as your full-time job, knowing how to code is a useful skill. Just like understanding a little bit about plumbing can help you in an emergency, knowing how to code enables you to either fix a problem yourself or ask the right questions of someone more knowledgeable who can find the answer to your problem more quickly.

What advice would you give to young women who are thinking about learning to program?

Curiosity knows no bounds. If you're curious, go do it. All you need is a computer and Internet connection, and you can learn for free. Do a Google search for "learn python" or "learn ruby," and if you can, find people to learn with you. It's not easy to learn to program, but it's fun and worth the effort. Keep picking at it and don't get discouraged.

2013-03-07-Screenshot20130307at3.32.19PM.png

Vanessa Hurst

Vanessa is the co-founder of Girl Develop It, a nonprofit that provides affordable, accessible software development instruction, the founder of Developers for Good, a community of technologists who use their skills to make the world a better place, and the founder of CodeMontage, a platform for improving coding skills through social good projects.

When and how did you get involved in technology?

I learned to code in college. I started undergrad as a bioengineering major and had to take computer science to fulfill a requirement for my degree. I ultimately decided to major in computer science because it seemed a little like magic and I knew it would lead to job security. After I entered the workforce, I learned how much good I could do for other people with technology.

Why do you think it's important for people to know how to code?

I believe Marc Andreessen was right when he said 'software is eating the world'. Software is integrated into all aspects of our world -- from education to agriculture and finance -- and it will only become more pervasive as time goes on. It's important that we learn to be creators of technology and not just consumers. Next to humans, computers are the best resource we have -- computers can store much more information than humans ever could, and they can do a lot more to process and manipulate that information for our benefit. Anybody who wants to make a big impact on the world should be leveraging computers do so.

What advice would you give to young woman who are thinking about learning to program?

Check out Code.org -- you'll find a centralized collection of resources there that can help you learn to code. Find the method that works best for you - online tutorials, in-person classes, or maybe a blend of the two. If Girl Develop It is in your area, it's a great way to learn in-person in a welcoming environment.

Remember that all developers are constantly learning, and it's OK if you don't know everything right away. And don't be afraid to ask questions!

2013-03-07-Screenshot20130307at3.31.42PM.png

Samantha John and Jocelyn Leavitt

Samantha and Jocelyn are the co-founders of Hopscotch, an iOS learning platform that teaches kids fundamental concepts of computer programming.

When did you first get involved in technology?

Jocelyn: I'm a former teacher who went to business school. When I was in business school I wanted to get involved in the tech industry, partially because there were so few women in it. Both my experiences in business school and in the classroom lead me to realize that there aren't really a lot of resources and tools available to onboard girls into technology.

Samantha: I'm a former math geek who came to computer science 'later in life'--after college. I went to engineering school and was one of only a handful of women in my program. When I realized how exciting it was to code websites, I made the switch to programming. Before starting Hopscotch, I worked for Pivotal Labs.

Why do you think it's important for people to know how to code

Tech touches our lives in so many ways, and fewer and fewer people know how it works. It's so important to understand "what's under the hood" of the technology we use every day. Further, technology is used increasingly in every industry, and students will use the critical thinking skills developed through understanding computer science for the rest of their lives. Plus, it's a great skill to have if you want to get paid a lot of money!

What advice would you give to young women who are thinking about learning to program?

Boys are faking it! At the beginning, it might seem like boys in tech know everything -- but they don't. Once you've learned a little bit, you'll realize that it's not so mysterious, and that no one knows everything.

These interviews have been edited for clarity.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and IGNITEgood in recognition of International Women's Day, on March 8.

 

Follow Maurya Couvares on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MauryaCouvares

FOLLOW TECH