Eliza P

Women of Color & Technology

Women are making wonderful contributions to the technology field, many thanks to backgrounds in computer science. However, despite the great things various women are doing such as Kimberly Bryant –founder of Black Girls Code —  or Reshma Saujani — founder and CEO of Girls Who Code — there are still not enough women in the field of technology. Moreover there the majority of computer science degrees are earned by men. The percent of women who graduate with computer science degrees or work in the technology industry and stay in it is low. The numbers for women of color graduating with computer science degrees, or working in the technology industry, are significantly lower than their white counterparts. Black, Latina, and Native/Indigenous women usually have the least representation within the field of technology and computer science. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, in 2011, only 18% of all undergraduate computer and information science degrees were obtained by women (1), meaning an overwhelming 82% of CS degrees were obtained by men in 2011. Despite women going into the field of technology without formal computer science degrees, it is still valuable for more women to obtain these degrees to lessen the gender gap in the technology field and to make the pool of ideas and projects in the tech industry more diverse and creative. This will only happen if the number of women in tech grows. In 2013, only 26% of computing occupations were held by women (2), however breaking this number apart leads to shockingly low percentages for women of color. In fact, in 2013, only 3% of the computing workforce was made up of Black women and 2% made up of Latinas, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. The problem that women of color face in obtaining computer science degrees and entering the field of technology is related to several barriers, related not only to gender, but also to race and culture. Some of these barriers include racial and gender discrimination, lack of resources, isolation, questions about their skills due to their race and/or gender, and lack of diverse mentors and peers (3).

My solution to the lack of women of color obtaining computer science degrees, along with the lack of women of color in the technology industry, is to propose the creation of startup program that will help women of color begin their own startups in the field of technology, along with providing classes for young girls of color to foster their love of technology and provide them with mentors that could eventually lead to more women of color entering computer science programs and completing them. The most optimistic outcome arising from my solution is that the number of women of color obtaining CS degrees and entering the field of technology increases after the program has been established for some time. Moreover, another optimistic outcome is that this company hosting a startup program and other tech classes for women of color will help foster a sense of community. I’d like it to be safe and accepting space where women and girls of color can collaborate and learn from each other to make the tech industry a better place. The unique experiences that come from being a woman of color in the U.S., I believe, would surely prompt creative solutions and projects that would change the tech industry, and maybe even our society on a small local level or large national scale.

As I mentioned, my solution to the lack of women of color graduating with CS degrees and entering the field of technology would be to create a company that hosts a startup program for women of color, along with providing classes in different tech related topics for both young girls and older women. This startup program would be similar to Dr. Luz Cristal Glangchai’s VentureLab 3 Day Startup San Antonio program. However, this start up would be a 5 day program, long enough to do many things, but also short enough that it wouldn’t be a hindrance to the women who may have families, jobs, school, or any other responsibilities they have to get back too. This startup program would specifically target women of color in order to increase the number of tech startups led by women of color, thus increasing the number of women of color in general in the technology industry.

This 5 day startup program would introduce women of color to investors and entrepreneurs that are interested in investing in women of color projects and helping them get ahead in an industry that isn’t a reflection of them. The women would be able to apply to the program, form teams, learn from other entrepreneurs and women in the technology industry. Women in the program would be able to present their products and ideas to a group of investors, venture capitalists interested in investing in projects that could potentially make the tech industry more creative and diverse. The 5 day program would also include a chance to network with industry professionals so that even if some startups are not chosen or invested into, the women still have connections to these professionals who may know colleagues that would like to invest in the women’s startups or help mentor them. The point of the program would be to foster a safe space where these women could learn from professionals and each other, and bolster enough energy and momentum to continue their projects.

Other than the startup program, I’d like the company to provide other round the year programs to help young girls of color and older women of color as well. Other programs would include coding camps for young girls so that if they do end up liking coding and want to continue programming, they already have a connection a group of women that can mentor them. BY having mentors this could solve the feeling of isolation and increase the number of girls of color entering computer science classes in high school and computer science classes in college.

Another year round program could be computer classes targeting older women of color, women who may have not grown up using computers or who would also like to learn how to use computers. Furthermore, the company could help women who have left the tech field who now want to refresh their skills and reenter the workforce.

By providing a startup program that is, hopefully, held more than once a year and by also providing different year round programs, my hope is that the number of women graduating with computer science degrees would increase over time, as well as the number of women of color in the technology industry. The importance of similar peers and mentors who deal with similar barriers, I believe, would be helpful in getting women of color ahead in the tech field.  And the exposure to investors and entrepreneurs interested in helping women of color led startups would diversify the tech industry and bring more creative ideas to the table.



  1. National Center for Women & Information Technology. (n.d.)[Girls in IT: The Facts Infographic] [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://www.ncwit.org/infographic/3435
  2. National Center for Women & Information Technology. (n.d.) [Women and Information Technology By the Numbers] [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/btn_02282014web.pdf
  3. Scott, A., & Martin, A. (2014, July 9). Diversity Data Shows Need to Focus on Women of Color. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-scott/diversity-data-shows-need_b_5571685.html

HTML & CSS: My Experience with Code Academy

I decided to do the HTML & CSS lesson on Code Academy as a basic introduction to coding. Unlike many of my peers who learned HTML & CSS because of neopets or what have you, I never got into that so I never really learned the basics. It wasn’t until college that I started wanting to know how to code and how to create things or change things using code. Before singing up for Code Academy I had no coding experience whatsoever. No computer class in high school or my first year of college had even touched upon how to use coding languages.

The Code Academy lesson was easy to follow and I liked that I could go at my own pace and stop whenever I wanted. The lesson is broken up into six parts and each part has two sections to complete. I finished five out of the six parts, so in total I did ten sections. HTML & CSS were much easier to understand and complete than I initially expected. It was very basic coding and easily applicable to things I already do, such as blogging.  The language wasn’t something I was familiar with,  but after doing a couple of lessons it was easy to remember the basic structure of the code and how it should work. I also dabbled in Javascript for a Mobile Gaming class I’m taking, but I won’t share that screenshot since I basically turned a dungeon game into a game about cosmetics. What can I say? Coding and lipstick go hand in hand for me. Though Code Academy may not be the greatest end all resource out there for coding, I think it’s a great introduction to different coding languages and might be a nice gateway into more complex things. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to start dabbling in coding and feels apprehensive about it. To me, a beginner, it seems like a good website for people with limited coding experience to start learning how to code. Nevertheless, I know some people can get frustrated with Code Academy, but I think it’s still a great way to get people interested in coding.


Women of Color in Computer Science

Despite being a powerful force, racial and gender discrimination has led to women of color being underrepresented in the field of technology, currently they lag in obtaining computer science degrees.

Maria Ong, who specializes in the experiences of women of color in STEM in higher education and careers,[1] explains that “among U.S. citizens and permanent residents receiving 2008 degrees in the computer sciences, women of color fared worse compared to their White female counterparts at both the bachelor’s and Ph.D. levels.”[2] Another problem is the “decline of Hispanic women earning Ph.D.s in CS [computer science].”[3]  In fact, research shows that “over the past decade…their numbers peaked in 2004 at nine Ph.D.s but have declined since, and they received only two of the [computer science] Ph.D.s awarded in 2008.”[4] Ong’s reasons for writing this article seem to be the further exposure on the challenges women of color face in the field of computer science and STEM, and to begin discussion on how to improve this situation.

Women of color “face barriers and obstacles related to both race and gender, a so-called ‘double-bind.’”[5] These can include “racial/gender discrimination, lack of access to resources and facilities, questions about skill due to one’s gender/race, isolation, endorsement of negative stereotypes about one’s own background, and a lack of diverse mentors, peers, and role models.”[6]

In fact, according to a survey by the National Science Foundation on the amount of employed doctoral scientists and engineers in 2013, out of a total of 21,900 people in computer/information sciences, only 4,000 were women.[7] Out of those 4,000 women, 100 were Latina, 1,500 were Asian, 100 were Black or African-American, 2,200 were White, and 100 were classified under other race. Out of the 4,000 employed doctoral women scientists and engineers, over half were white women and less than 5% were Latina and Black women. This wide gap shows the lack of women of color employed who already received a doctorate; even after getting to the same level of education as their colleagues, women of color are still not highly represented in computer science.

Some companies, like Google, seem to be trying to retain women and people of color by “extending maternity leave for women and establishing employee resource groups for minority employees.”[8]  Programs like Black Girls Code, a non-profit that aims to teach young girls of color how to code and program, also shows a step forward in improving the situation of women of color in computer science and technology.

Despite there being many women of color in computer science and technology who are doing amazing things, we are still underrepresented compared to white women and men in general. However, I believe through the creation of more resources for women of color in the form of educational nonprofits, tech/computer science conferences, more resources and facilities in schools with predominantly students of color, as well as to raise awareness about the great women already in the field who can serve as mentors and role models for future computer science students the future of technology will benefit. I believe these suggestions could help raise the number of women of color earning computer science degrees, along with more girls of color showing an interest in computer science which may help combat negative stereotypes women of color must deal with when entering technology fields.

[1] description provided at the end of her article on Page 34

[2] Ong, Maria. “Broadening Participation The Status Of Women Of Color In Computer Science.” Communications Of The ACM 54.7 (2011): 32-34. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

[3] “Broadening Participation The Status Of Women Of Color In Computer Science.” Page 32

[4] “Broadening Participation The Status Of Women Of Color In Computer Science.” Page 32

[5] Scott, Allison. “Diversity Data Shows Need to Focus on Women of Color.”The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 July 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-scott/diversity-data-shows-need_b_5571685.html&gt;.

[6] Scott, Allison. “Diversity Data Shows Need to Focus on Women of Color.”The Huffington Post.

[7] National Science Foundation. (2013). Survey of Doctorate Recipients [electronic file]. Retrieved from http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/doctoratework/2013/.

[8] Sullivan, Gail. “Google Statistics Show Silicon Valley Has a Diversity Problem.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 29 May 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/05/29/most-google-employees-are-white-men-where-are-allthewomen/&gt;.

Women and Technology in the 1950s

Despite many women interacting with technology in the home through new household items in the 1950s, many women were actually pioneers for computer science and worked with technology outside the household.

The following photo depicts Beatrice Helen Worsley, Canada’s first female computer scientist, in front of the EDSAC in Cambridge circa 1949-1951. Worsley was a member of the Cambridge, UK, Mathematical Laboratory where she worked on the early runs of the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) an early British computer.


          Photo courtesy of Alva Worsley featured in Scott M. Campbell’s essay on Beatrice Helen Worsley

For additional reading about Beatrice Helen Worsley and her contributions to computing history, see this link.

The following photo shows Melba Roy Mouton, a graduate of Howard University in 1950, in front of a computer at her workplace. In 1959, Mouton started working at NASA where she was head mathematician for Echo Satellites 1 and 2. Eventually she became Head Programmer designing computer programs that predicted aircraft locations and trajectories.

Photo courtesy of  Women Rock Science tumblr page

                       Photo courtesy of Women Rock Science Tumblr page

For more information on Melba Roy Mouton, see the following link.

The following photo shows Thelma Estrin and her team working on the WEIZAC computer mainframe. The WEIZAC or Weizmann Automatic Computer was the first electronic computer in Israel and Estrin and her husband spent fifteen months there working on it.


                           Photo courtesy of the Computer History Museum

To learn more about Thelma Estrin and her contributions to computer systems, see link.

The following photo shows a woman operating an IBM 1620 Data Processing System circa 1958. The IBM 1620 Data processing system was a general-purpose, stored-program data processing system used by schools, small businesses, and engineering departments in larger businesses.

                                                                          Photo courtesy of Calisphere

To learn more about the IBM 1620 Data Processing System, see link.

The following photo shows Lidy Zweers-De Ronde, on of Netherlands first women programmers, along with two colleagues at the console of a Ferranti Mark I at Shell Laboratory in Amsterdam circa 1952. This was the world’s first commercially available general purpose electronic computer.


                                        Photo courtesy of Chicas y ordenadores Tumblr page

For more information on the Ferranti Mark I, see link.

Proposed Course: Introduction to Creative Technology

Module Modification- Introduction to Information Technology

New name: Introduction to Creative Technology
Credits: 3 hours
Why: The original course is not very engaging and it is confusing. We also found it is not applicable to real many real life situations.
Prerequisites needed: none
Short  description: Students will be introduced to basic coding, programming, web design, and gaming. Each student will focus on a specific semester long project.
Syllabus: Intro to general computer skills, then semester long project. Each lesson will help build project.