Archive for the ‘LadiesLearningCode’ Category
So on November 28th, I went to visit my old high school, Branksome Hall. It was SO much fun!
I first met with a small group of girls who were interested to go into computer science or engineering in general. They asked a lot of questions about curriculum and high school prep. I couldn’t answer all their questions about what courses they need to take in high school for specific programs, but one of the guidance councillors, Mrs. Ross, was there to assist me in that. I spoke about the usefulness and flexibility one gets with a computer science degree from U of T and talked about my PEY in Japan. Some of the girls were really thrilled about the chance to work abroad. They were even more thrilled when I told them, they’d get *paid* for it.
My second meeting was with a grade 12 physics class. I was happy to see my old physics teacher again since she was always very kind and patient with me, even when I didn’t do my homework. Some of the girls in that class were also in the lunch-time meeting, so there was some overlap. However, this time around, things were geared towards the importance of having a well-rounded (physics included) background in high school. Again I also went over what I was doing now, what I did for PEY, and the kinds of projects I worked on in school.
It was so much fun to talk to these girls. I tried not to sound overly teacher-ish and tried to come across as friendly and easy to talk to (like a friend). They probably get enough “grown-ups” telling them things, so I tried to relate to them and tell them things that might interest them instead.
One thing I found interesting was their lack of interest in knowing what there potential classmates would be like (i.e. the boys). Since BH is an all-girl school, I don’t think they gave it much thought and they’re not experiencing what it’s like to be in that kind of setting. After talking to a friend about this, she said that in co-ed schools, the girls in tech classes she talked to never asked any questions. When they had one, they would approach her after the talk was over. I thought that was terribly depressing, to be honest. In high school, I never thought twice about asking questions, but in university, I can understand. I think THIS is what the current problem is.
Girls have enough courage to take the courses in high school, but not enough courage to participate in them? I can image they’re afraid of asking silly questions and having other people look at them as if they’re stupid. The number of girls in first year computer science courses is pretty good, but I think many take them as a distribution requirement. Maybe they have a friend taking it and can help them. But the number dwindles as you go to more advanced classes. And I think many of them get turned off by their classmates. In an intro course, you get students of all skill levels. The problem is, that if most of your beginner students are female, they can be easily intimidated by the advanced students who will more likely be male.
I think I’m just rambling, but I think that to get more girls interested in these fields at the university level, girls need to get gain more confidence earlier on and understand that any feelings of insecurities in university is shared by a lot of people in their classes…
…from what I’ve experienced anyway.
This past weekend I spent a day helping out at the first #LadiesLearningCode Workshop. It was a most eye-opening experience. It made me realize that there is a huge demand for a space where women can learn how to code. I want to quickly say thanks to Heather Payne and all the organizers and developers who helped make the day run so smoothly. As a developer realized what a terrible teacher I am. However! It has, happily, left me with a new drive to spread the word to all women in Engineering and Computer Science and young ladies all around the city.
One of the lightning talks given by Jessamyn Smith made me realize that all the feelings of insecurity I had for 3 years of my undergrad were apparently normal! Who’d have thought!? It took me until my fourth year, after coming back from my Professional Experience Year, to realize that I actually *DO* know just as much if not more than a lot of the guys I thought were always smarter than me. Finishing up now, I realize how much university has helped shape me into a more confident, and independent person. This is largely due to the interactions I’ve had with some of my classmates (for better and worse). So really, Thank you all!
A couple weeks ago, when I was first put in touch with Heather, I started thinking about why I was in computer science. I always tell people it’s by chance in high school, but I wish it wasn’t. When I graduated high school I was one of a handful of girls going into a technical field. I always felt put-off by that fact especially since I was lucky enough to go to a prestigious school that’s ranked on a world-wide scale. So why weren’t more girls interested in programming or computers? Why was there such emphasis on the arts and humanities where it was less so on maths and sciences?
I’m hoping to be able to make it a personal goal of mine to get to the bottom of it. The current plan is to contact *someone* from the faculty and get some information. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to eventually give a talk to these girls about the merits of technical fields, the problems they may encounter, and anything else I can come up with. *IF* I do get to give a talk, I’ll definitely be looking for input about content from my fellow CS girls or Branksome girls.
Wish me luck!