Last week, ten members of Bowdoin Women in Computer Science (BWICS) participated in the world’s largest gathering of women technologists at the Grace Hooper Celebration in Houston, Texas. Twelve thousand attendees took part in three days filled with tech talks, workshops, networking events and career fairs while surrounded by some of the best minds in computing.

All student attendees were given the opportunity to participate in many of the undergraduate geared activities throughout the conference. Spaces like the Student Opportunity Lab gave groups of people time to talk to mentors about topics such as applying to graduate school, succeeding in tech-interviews, or navigating the technology internship scene. 
Other spaces gave students one-on-one face time with recruiters from all over the country who were looking to give on-the-spot interviews to female students and future leaders in the tech industry.

Computer Science major and Bowdoin Women in Computer Science leader Bella Tumaneng ’17 was one of the ten female students who attended the conference this year. 
She said that the conference provided  not only opportunities to look for internships, but also to learn from other women in the field. 

“I found it very empowering to be around such a large number of people with whom I had something very important in common with,” she said. “Speakers were sharing their experiences and talking about things they do at work and in school.” 

Tumaneng said that she found strong support from other participants in workshops. 
Tumaneng believes that the lack of female support networks is the number one reason people are dropping out of technology fields.

Senior Computer Science major and BWICS member Gina Stalica ’16 said she struggled in her early days of taking Computer Science classes. 

“There was a period of time where I was really intimidated by it. I was intimidated to ask guys in my class for help,” she said. 

Because of the daunting gender disparity in technology, BWICS aims to build on campus networks of encouragement.

“As an upperclassman student I look up to seniors for advice and support, but I also try to support sophomores and freshman,” Tumaneng said.

The group hosts study sessions and workshops for its members throughout the year, and they encourage women outside the club who show an interest in tech to explore taking classes.
According to Tumaneng, lack of early tech exposure also contributes to the gender gap. One of the new aims of BWICS this year is also to broaden the scope of their support networks to the greater Brunswick community by bringing tech exposure to younger girls in middle school and high school.

Tumaneng believes that women in the field need the simple reassurance that “what you want to do is perfectly valid” and as a result, BWICS’ overarching objective is “to show you that you can actually do all of it.”

As the field of technology continues to augment its level of female representation, the prominence of BWICS on campus is as necessary as ever to empower women through its many outlets of support.