Pacific’s Women in Computer Science club works toward equality in their major
The smell of pizza wafted from the boxes placed on the tables of the computer lab while Jenga blocks sat waiting to be stacked. Students gathered in the room, pizza in hand, as the club leaders read out a slideshow on the many opportunities for computer science majors, explaining that careers in computer science consist of more than just a “dude in a chair” writing out codes.
At the Women in Computer Science (WICS) career night, students list off career opportunities, including how to get started in game development, hardware development, computer security work, and more.
The WICS career night is just one of many events of support that the club offers computer science majors at Pacific. The session is an all-you-need-to-know course that helps students build their resumes, prepare for interviews and internships, and even speak with alumni who can provide expert advice in a multitude of computer science related careers. The club also has a trip in the works to provide their members with a closer look at companies in the field.
And, apart from the informational meetings, WICS also makes sure to set aside time for fun for its members: Video games as well as Jenga (giant edition, of course), and Uno.
As its title suggests, WICS works to provide representation for women in computer science. It’s no secret that computer science is a highly male-dominated field, with only about 20 percent—or, one of five—in the profession being women. Many people still believe that only men can succeed in computer related careers, which is a bias spanning several decades that has discouraged countless women from joining the field. And, not surprisingly, the American Association of University Women has found that there still exists a gender pay gap for computer scientists, as women only make 9 out of 10 dollars as what men make.
But how did it get this way? And how to change?
Back when computers were a rare item that could not fit in a backpack, a lot of the field’s first computer scientists were women. Ada Lovelace, Barbara Liskov, and many others all made major contributions to get computers to where they are today.
However, despite these efforts, women were still left out of the narrative once computers started to become a more marketable item. The image of computer scientists portrayed in movies, tv shows, and video games mainly comprises of men. Adding to the frustration, women shown in these forms of media (namely video games) are typically designed for men as well; two-dimensional characters in need of rescuing.
Be that as it may, many organizations now exist to repair the damage that negative stereotypes have caused in the profession; among these is Pacific’s very own, WICS.
WICS is committed to providing women in computer science careers with a safe space here at Pacific. Alyssa Dixon, one of the club’s leaders, recalls how when she first came to Pacific, she hardly saw any other women in her field. Upon discovering WICS, though, she realized that she wasn’t alone, and that support for her and other women in her major exists. Women in WICS are given opportunities to speak with their female peers in the area as well as hear from professionals who got their degree in this male-dominated field.
WICS also aims to disprove the stereotypes against computer scientists, not only pertaining to women’s involvement, but to the image created of everyone in computer science. The club doesn’t just consist of “a bunch of people playing video games,” as Zach Abela-Gale, the secretary for WICS, explains, nor does it solely focus on providing academic assistance. “It’s just people hanging out here,” Abela-Gale adds.
While the club resolves to advocate for women’s rights and opportunities in the field of computer science, WICS is welcoming to anyone wanting to be a part of their community. “A common misconception is that it’s only for women,” Dixon mentions. “Although we do want to promote women involvement in computer science, we also want anybody to join and feel comfortable.” — Grace Holmes