On Wednesday, May 19th, 2021, J. Clarke Richardson’s Girls Who Code club hosted their first-ever virtual “Looking Ahead Webinar”, which was open to all students from our school. The purpose of this event was to highlight women in STEM and encourage more girls to pursue their interests in this field.
Though progress is being made in society, there is still a huge gender disparity in STEM students as more men enter this field than women. According to census.gov, “Women made gains – from 8% of STEM workers in 1970 to 27% in 2019 – but men still dominated the field. Men made up 52% of all U.S. workers but 73% of all STEM workers.” Furthermore, it has also been found that the number of women in certain parts of STEM has decreased in the more recent decades. Specifically, according to census.gov, “the percentage of women in computer occupations is higher than in 1970, it actually decreased between 1990 and 2019.”
Girls Who Code felt that it was important for their club to spotlight the fact that success in these fields as a woman is very much possible. There is no gender barrier that can stop you from building big dreams and pursuing what you love.
As a part of this event, three of JCR’s alumni who are currently pursuing their higher education in STEM as women attended this event as guest speakers. They are Ena Kohli, who is doing computer science at the University of Waterloo, Patrica Ding, who is doing computer science at the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus, and Dhwani Vaishnav, who is doing software engineering at the University of Ottawa. These girls talked about their personal experiences as women in STEM, as well as what their courses and course load looks like. In addition, they talked about their processes in choosing a university to attend and other factors that were important to them. Plus, they talked about some of the challenges of transitioning to university such as workload, accountability, self-directed learning and more, emphasizing any advice they have about getting into university, like how to balance extracurriculars and grades.
Many students attended this event and some of them were asked about what they learned and their opinion on the event. One of the club’s executives, Lana Wehbeh, said she was “really grateful to hear about the candid experiences of girls, who, just like me, attended J. Clarke Richardson. I felt that I was able to connect with them on a personal level and enjoyed the welcoming feel of the entire experience… it was incredible to hear that girls can and do succeed in these programs despite the gender gap!”
Another attendee, Pricilla Pradeepan, mentioned that she learned a lot about “how networking and extracurricular activities are just as important as getting good grades in school. I also learned ways to get a good co-op program and how to succeed in it (such as asking questions and taking initiative).” One of the things she enjoyed about this event was “how they talked about their experiences in taking [computer science] in university, so I know what to expect when I graduate.”
Though this event is over, there is still definitely a lot more to Girls Who Code. If you’re interested, join the club! They have meetings on Wednesdays at 3 pm, and you can always keep up to date with more events on their Instagram: @jcr.girlswhocode.