Young women today have the opportunity to flourish in STEM careers like never before. PSW’s industry partner, Geisel Software, has a successful young woman on their team who wants to share her story and perspective as inspiration for girls who may feel incapable of prospering in STEM careers.
Liz was not a computer science prodigy. “We had a family computer when I was a kid. My Dad was always afraid we would install something ‘dangerous,’ so we weren’t allowed to install anything. As a result, I didn’t get the chance to download things and play with them, which is the way many programmers get started. At my high school, the most advanced computer class was Photoshop. There was no programming. That meant I had to dig in at college. I liked Introduction to Computer Science when I took it as a freshman, despite the fact that I was initially less prepared than my peers.” Liz did not allow her “catch-up” time to slow her down.
In college, Liz was a trailblazer. “Out of my entire college graduating class there were only two females in the CS program. I was one, and the other was my roommate. I think a lot of women say, ‘I’m not good at math or whatever, so I can’t do this STEM stuff,’ but I don’t think men are actually any better at it.” It all comes down to confidence and determination. Today, there are more opportunities for young girls to try programming, discover the intricacies, and overcome their fear. An increasing number of high schools are offering introductory programming classes, and young women are encouraged to enroll.
This bodes well for the future, as more young women experience programming firsthand and consider computer science as a career path. Liz has more good news to share. “The industry is a lot more welcoming now,” she says. “People understand that a lack of women in programming is a real problem. Companies genuinely want to hire women, and schools want to make sure that girls are not scared away from Computer Science. Young girls today need to know there is a pipeline for them, and a support network.”
Liz has this parting advice for girls looking toward careers in STEM , “No one is good at programming right away. Everyone is feeling their way at the beginning. And nobody knows it all, it’s just too diverse. One person knows encryption code for YouTube, while the person next to them has expertise in something else. You just keep learning skills to get better at it, and it all takes time.” Liz loves her job at Geisel Software, and she continues to learn and grow every day.