Girls Who Code

March 4, 2015 Jenny O'Neil

As a software engineer at Narrative Science, I sometimes get asked the question: how did you get into a career in technology?  

When I went to college, I never saw myself pursuing a degree in Computer Science. (I honestly didn’t know what it was!)  My sophomore year I was exploring majors and decided to take a look at engineering.  One of the first classes a CS student is required to take is programming. I remember sitting in class feeling overwhelmed and underprepared, surrounded by people – the majority of whom were male – who had taken programming classes in high school or who had programmed on their own as a hobby.

This fear of already being behind when taking an introductory class is definitely a deterrent from continuing a major in Computer Science.  Additionally, some women wouldn’t even think to take a computer science class because they’ve never been exposed to it. The results are alarming. In a room full of 25 engineers, only 3 will be women.

That’s why the organization Girls Who Code is so important.  Girls Who Code is a non-profit organization aimed to expose young women to computer science so that they will explore careers in the technology and engineering fields.

Its mission is to “inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skill to pursue 21st century opportunities,” and it does this through intensive instructorship and high-top mentorship with a volunteer instructor.

As a volunteer with Girls Who Code, I teach a group of high school girls how to program and inform them about careers in technology.  Most of the girls in the class come with no previous experience in computer science, yet they are able to create a simple video game in just a few classes.  It’s inspiring to see these girls program creative solutions for a wide variety of projects, in areas such as robotics, web design and mobile development.

One of the most exciting components of Girls Who Code is getting exposure to the industry’s top engineers and entrepreneurs.  To give the students some real-world perspective, I organized a trip to Narrative Science.  The girls came into the office and heard from women in our engineering, product, and professional services teams talk about their work in creating innovative solutions with our advanced natural language generation platform, Quill.

It can be difficult to see yourself in a certain career if you are not exposed to others who have similar roles.  Understanding the skills required for a career in technology through first-hand experience is critical to answer the initial question: can I see myself doing this?  The women who work at Narrative Science are passionate about their work in technology and definitely served as inspiring role models to the students.

Women make up half of the workforce, but hold just 25% of the jobs in technical or computing fields.  So how can we get more women interested in careers in technology? Well, almost every girl who participates in Girls Who Code say they are more likely to pursue computer science after finishing the program.

I have never believed that there is anything inherent about computer science that women have a harder time understanding.  However it is proven that lack of exposure to technology and positive role models prohibit women from pursuing STEM careers.  When girls are exposed to programming and careers in technology, they become interested and excited about learning more.

If you are interested in a position at Narrative Science, we’d love to hear from you! Check out our employee opportunities today.

Jenny O’Neil is a Software Engineer at Narrative Science. Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn.


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