Even by STEM standards, the gender gap in computer science has been difficult to close. While women such as Grace Hopper and Mary Allen Wilkes were critical contributors to the early days of computer programming, today’s tech world is heavily skewed towards men. Recent stories in the New York Times and books such as Brotopia have shone a spotlight on this disparity, offering ideas for increasing the number of women in the field of computer science and the tech workplace.
compileHer, a student group led by UChicago CS undergraduates, believes that early exposure to programming, technology, and other aspects of computer science can plant the seed for future careers. Through a variety of activities — including a hackathon, after-school coding workshops, a capstone event and field trips to local tech offices — the group brings computer science to middle school girls in Chicago, hopefully giving them a boost of confidence to pursue further tech education.
Since its founding as UChicago FEMMES in 2014, the student group has grown to more than 30 members, with a particular burst of interest from underclassmen.
“It’s been amazing to see...obviously we want to help build these young girl's confidence in pursuing computer science, but I feel like we're building a community back home here at UChicago as well,” said Devshi Mehrotra, a fourth-year who directs compileHer. “A lot of girls who go into computer science, the way they initially got exposed was through similar programs. For them, the mission of our organization really resonates, because they realize how this kind of experience can completely change your trajectory.”