WOMEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT

This is what a female engineer looks like

Last summer, we were lamenting the lack of women engineers in the media. There are tons of articles and data about how women are a minority in the software industry, which is a sad reality. Meanwhile, the few articles that specifically showcase women in tech create an unattainable archetype of a woman that somehow manages to run marathons, raise a family, always looks impeccable, and marginalizes the amazing technology that she built.

As software engineers, we get asked a lot about what it’s like to be a woman in tech. Are there any horror stories? Have we experienced sexism in school or at work? We would much rather be asked about our technical accomplishments and the technology we’ve built: What was the first Android app that Erin built? What was Zainab’s winning Hackathon project?

We decided to take control and do something about it, and that’s how project “wogrammer” was born. We interview our fellow women engineers and showcase the cutting-edge technology they’ve built. The more voices of real, authentic woman engineers we can share, the greater hopes we have of breaking stereotypes and focusing on the technical achievements of women. From the high school student teaching herself to code, to the CEO running her business, we’ve interviewed over 50 engineers from Cape Town to Silicon Valley in all types industries. Here are just a few of the inspiring women we’ve interviewed so far:

Kayla Thomas
(Wogrammer)

Kaya Thomas, a sophomore in Computer Science at Dartmouth, was inspired to learn to code after hearing a TED talk by Kimberly Bryant from the non-profit Black Girls Code. She went to Codecademy and taught herself the python programming language, which she used to build the iOS app We Read Too, a book resource app that showcases over 300 books written by authors of color featuring characters of color.

We Read Too has received rave reviews from educators and parents, who finally have a consolidated app to find books for their children. Thomas was recently honored by Michelle Obama at BETs #BlackGirlsRock event.

Melissa Halfon
(Melissa Halfon)

Melissa Halfon teamed up with artist Alexandra Diracles at a Startup Weekend competition in NYC to create a space where kids could learn to code and create art at the same time. They won the competition and founded VidCode, a web app that teaches JavaScript through creating video filters for Instagram videos. They recently ran an all-girls hackathon combining filmmaking with computer science in partnership with Amy Poehler SmartGirls and the 92nd Street Y community center.

Ilona Bodnar
(Wogrammer)

Ilona Bodnar, a high school senior at Piedmont High School, wanted to know how computers work, so she taught herself Python and JavaScript using Codecademy. Bodnar was so empowered by her newfound skills that she felt had to spread her knowledge to other girls at her high school. As a result, she founded the Technovation Challenge Club in her junior year and taught a group of 10 girls how to build mobile apps. At the end of May, she will be running a Robotic Petting Zoo makeathon.

Ayna Agarwal
(Wogrammer)

Ayna Agarwal co-founded She++ with her freshman year dorm-mate Ellora Israni at Stanford, after they noticed that there were not many role models for women in computer science.

She++ began as a forum for role models and has since grown into an international organization. They now provided video content, have produced a documentary, and host a yearly gala to help engage other young women in technology.

Leah Mcgowen-Hare
(Wongrammer)

Leah Mcgowen-Hare, a Master Technical Trainer at Salesforce, teaches developers how to use Apex, strongly-typed programming language, and Visual Force, a Web-based framework.

Throughout her career, Mcgowen-Hare has trained over 13,500 developers. She also volunteers for Black Girls Code and recently helped teach girls to program and build robotics at a hackathon. Recently, Mcgowen-Hare set a goal to create the first all women’s developer’s training session for Salesforce, which she offered for free to women developers at non-profits.

Mcgowen-Hare’s advice is to “own what you say, and say it with conviction,” she said. Mcgowen-Hare’s experience programming, or “dev-cred,” has earned her the respect of her peers and opened doors for new opportunities, proving that with tenacity and the power of programming you can pave your own way and create your own dream job.

For more wogrammer stories or to nominate women to be featured as part of the project, follow them on Facebook, Medium, Instagram or Twitter.

We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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