I started coding when I was in middle school or so, and at that time, there wasn’t much representation for other young girls interested in the same things. All of the activities and online games that encouraged some form of computer science or programming - like Roblox, Minecraft, and robotics kits, were all catered towards boys, which was a bit discouraging of course, but didn’t end up stopping me from pursuing my interests.
In my junior year of high school, I had an opportunity to be a teaching assistant for the Girls Who Code summer program, where I instructed students my own age about Python and website development in HTML. This environment of all women was a completely new experience for me, and I ended up writing some of my college application essays on how much fun my teaching experiences were.
When I came to college, the lack of gender representation in computer science was of course still evident at all levels - mostly nothing had changed from my middle school and high school academic experiences with the field. Starting at the top, all of the heads of major research labs in my department were mostly men, and I ended up only having two female professors teaching my technical coursework - Anca Dragan in Artificial Intelligence, and Gireeja Ranade in Electrical Engineering. Both of these professors were phenomenal!
Despite low percentages of women studying Computer Science and EECS at UC Berkeley, I still was able to find great groups of women to work with, attend recruiting events with, and meet through my time at Berkeley. Joining specific clubs for women in STEM was one of the ways I was able to do this. Additionally, for CS specifically, there are great opportunities specifically for women in the field, such as the Grace Hopper Conference, a yearly celebration of women in computing with speakers, recruiting opportunities, and more. Another popular conference is the Richard Tapia conference, which is focused on more general diversity in the field as well.
In conclusion, while there may be a lack of representation of women in college studying these fields, there’s no shortage of opportunities to meet others or network. The numbers shouldn’t discourage you from applying to a certain major or program - help be part of changing those!
Prianka is a Consultant on the Study Hall College Consulting Team. Prianka is currently a junior at UC Berkeley where she is majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Berkeley's College of Engineering. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.