New Group Encodes Love for Programming
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 02:01
The inauguration of GU Women Who Code attracted students from 19 different majors, as well as faculty and staff from various departments, to St. Mary’s Hall on Thursday. The brainchild of Chief Information Officer Lisa Davis and associate professor of computer science Lisa Singh, the club aims to expand the coding skills of female students.
A pre-event survey revealed 81 percent of responders had no coding experience before attending, 86 percent had never taken a computer science class at Georgetown and only two students in attendance were majoring in computer science.
GU Women Who Code developed as a practical response to the evolving needs of the job marketplace and growth in computer science industry.
“What are those practical skill sets that corporations, companies are looking for in terms of coding skills?” Davis said. “You name it, every market, every field, there is a technology component to it.”
Davis, herself among a small minority of science, technology, engineering and math majors as a Syracuse University undergraduate, expected 10 to 12 replies to her general, interest-gauging email.
“We have been overwhelmed by the response,” she said. “This has been the most successful response to any email we’ve put out for participation across campus.”
GU Women Who Code began as a way to draw more women to computer science.
“When I first started here at Georgetown, there was a particular year where I had no female students,” Singh said. “For a long period, I was the only female faculty member in the department.”
Singh decided about 10 years ago to create a women’s computer science group for the few female computer science majors and minors at Georgetown. However, the club did not include women outside of the Computer Science department.
“I hope that women see that they’re not alone in this interest,” Singh said.
Singh and Davis hope to increase interest in computer science by focusing on reaching out to girls in middle school and high school to develop an early interest in technology and coding.
In addition to working with the Girl Scouts, they hope to bring Girls Who Code, a new nonprofit organization which fosters an interest in coding for girls aged 11 to 18, to Washington, D.C. to partner with Georgetown and GU Women Who Code..
Singh is confident her female graduate and undergraduate students will serve as teachers and mentors to the young club members.
“We have … a number of wonderful female students who would like to help,” Singh said.
Despite the relatively small size of the computer science department, Davis has attracted the interest of companies such as Synergy, who are interested in hiring female coders and plans to partner with them to provide sufficient hardware for the club.
The first meeting, moved to St. Mary’s 126 due to the large demonstrated interest, drew 80 attendees.
Those in attendance started the meeting by familiarizing themselves with Python, an easy-to-learn language, which programmers can implement on several different platforms.
Currently, the meetings will occur once every few weeks and feature a lecture. Additionally, working groups of five to nine coders and an experienced programmer will convene to work on a project on a weekly basis
“That’ll give time to talk about the coding, so you’re not alone at a computer, struggling,” Emma Hussain (COL ’17) said.
Other proposed ideas included lab times for constant coding assistance and extended intensive weekend sessions, both of which are under consideration by Davis and Singh.
Emily Fitzpatrick (COL ’17), a computer science major, demonstrated the enthusiasm the coding community has shown for the new club.
“I have heard other people say, sort of in common conversation, ‘You know, women just aren’t as interested in math, or computer science or science in general,’ and I think that that’s false,” she said. “You know, we have the power to change that, and I think that’s what this club is going to do.”