Success vs. Replicas

Growing up as a girl interested in science and math, I always knew that there were going to be more guys than girls in my classes. This showed more and more as time went on, as I got older, and as my classes became more challenging. This past semester less than a quarter of the students in my High School’s entry-level Programming class were girls. After recently becoming an AiC member, I learned that 0.4% of girls major in Computer Science. This is something that shocked me greatly. Out of all the girls in the world, how can only 0.4% of them want to be a part of this?

Maybe it’s just because it’s an interest of mine. I guess, if you told any girl that such a small percentage of girls shared their interest in something, they’d be shocked too. However Computer Science is our future. If you think about it, nearly everything you see has had something to do with programming-even shirts are typically made by a machine, a machine that needs programming. I began to wonder why this percentage is so small, and why it does not seem to be going up anytime soon.

A few recent events have shown me both the promise of the future of girls in CS, and the reason why the number is not due to skyrocket anytime soon. Hidden Figures recently hit theaters, and it was an amazing experience for me. Not only was a major movie being shown about girls in STEM, but it was a true story. This gave girls a role model to look up to for different reasons than we typically see. Young girls weren’t going to see Hidden Figures and wanting to have the body type or makeup skill of the main characters-they were inspired by their determination and intelligence. And that was something I had never seen before.

The second thing I saw was a commercial by GE. This commercial aired during the Oscars, and was confusing at first. There was an older woman, likely unrecognized by most of the audience watching the commercial, being treated like a Kardashian. Paparazzi were following her around, people wanted photos with her, and she seemed like the greatest star Hollywood had ever seen. Who was she? Millie Dresselhaus, the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering. This made me think: What would the world be if we treated woman with exceptional minds the way we treated women with exceptional bodies?

Think about it. Girls wouldn’t want to grow up and look like Kylie Jenner, they’d want to go up and think like Millie Dresselhaus, or the multitudes of other talented women out there. If we had a society where girls strive to be intelligent and confident versus famous and the exact copy of their favorite celebrity, we would have a society of success versus replicas; a society where more than 0.4% of girls want to go into Computer Science.

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