Earlier this semester, The Daily Texan shed light on the gross underrepresentation of women in computing by writing about the mere seven female freshmen in the computer science honors program. Women continuously struggle to find a strong voice in the computer science community at UT.
There are programs set up to assist women in computer science. Women in Computer Science is a student-led organization that seeks to provide mentorship and assistance to women throughout their academic career. However, the program fails to maintain a high level of active membership and should improve efforts to develop a tech community for women.
In order to strengthen their efforts to support women in computer science, the Department of Computer Science should consider partnering with other female-centric groups in colleges on campus. By working alongside the Women in Engineering Program within the Cockrell School, they can help to provide a more inclusive and robust community of female engineers.
Lisa Yu, a WiCS officer, said they try to keep the events as inclusive as possible to foster active membership, but often, participation can fluctuate and become quite low. According to computer science sophomore Sri Chappidi, when school gets busy mid-semester, she doesn’t have the same motivation to attend events because of the organization’s lack of strong community.
Additionally, the core of many events put on for women by the Department of Computer Science revolves around career recruiting. In October, every major event offered by WiCS was a social event put on by corporate sponsors. While the focus of these events is often social, they aren’t the best environment to create a supportive community because they’re often facilitated by representatives from a company.
Ana Dison, the director of the Women in Engineering Program (WEP), said the core mission of the WEP program lies on three pillars — outreach, retention and career success. One way they’re able to find strong membership for each of these initiatives is through the WEP Leadership Collaborative (WEPLC), which helps to support the individual student-run organizations for women within the Cockrell school.
Dison said that this initiative has been successful for the student organizations in the WEPLC because they’re able to interact with like-minded students from different fields. This provides them with alternative perspectives on the issues and experiences faced by women in underrepresented fields. Taking part in WEP activities would help overcome issues that WiCS sees due to their lower active membership.
WEP, unlike WiCS, is not entirely student-run and has a four-person full-time staff and one half-time administrative associate, a factor Dison cites as a reason for their success.
Because the Department of Computer Science is housed in the College of Natural Sciences, they currently do not receive the same assistance from WEP. However, according to Dison, WiCS is more than welcome to become an organization under the WEPLC in order to leverage the resources WEP wields.
Ultimately, it is important for the Department of Computer Science to understand that community building happens outside the corporate sphere. By partnering with other female-centric organizations, WiCS can become a much stronger force for women in tech.
Krishnan is a computer science sophomore from Plano.