Two of the Stanford students behind she++ announce an awesome new fellowship opportunity for high school students who want to pursue tech careers.
By Lucy Wang and Rachel Mellon (Co-directors, #include Fellowship Program)
In today’s tech industry, only 12% of employees are women: a startling statistic, when compared to other fields like business and healthcare, where women and men occupy positions in equal proportions. The lack of women in tech is a problem that can be traced all the way back to middle and high school, where all students, especially girls, are not gaining enough exposure to computing-related fields.
This inspired a group of Stanford University students two years ago to start she++, an organization that works to empower and promote women in technology. she++ has hosted a conference for women in tech for the past two years, released a documentary chronicling challenges faced by women in computer science, and developed a mentorship program to give guidance to high school students considering computing. But, we wanted to do more to reach high school students, because they represent the biggest source of untapped potential.
This year, we are co-directing she++’s newest initiative, the #include Fellowship Program for high school students. This program pairs high school participants with college student advisors and provides them with the resources and guidance to become leaders and start tech initiatives in their communities: for example, by starting a robotics club or petitioning to start an AP computer science class at their school. The program culminates with the #include Summit in April, where 30 high school participants will be selected as #include Fellows for an all-expense paid trip to Stanford to dive into the tech culture and community.
Our paths to computer science were very different, but we both want to give high school students the opportunity to explore and become passionate about computer science. Check out our stories below!
I came to Stanford with an interest in biology and economics, but the idea of majoring in computer science didn't cross my mind until I took my first CS class my freshman year. I absolutely loved it. Never before had I been so excited to spend hours on assignments. It didn’t feel like work, because I was creating. That rush of adrenaline when I see the cool thing I created load on my screen never gets old. It is what got me into CS, and it has what kept me here to this day. I think that if you love to create, if you love to design, then you might just love CS.
Now that it’s so clear to me that CS is what I want to do, I often wonder why it did not occur to me earlier. In high school, I had considered being everything from doctor to investment banker to architect, but never programmer. Looking back, I wish I had been exposed to computer science earlier. While a computer programming class was offered at my high school, I didn't take it, because I didn't know what CS was and I couldn't envision myself being a coder. And therein lies the problem. I believe that in order to change the image of technology and get more students interested in pursuing careers in tech, we have to start in our high schools, and inspire students to give CS a try.
When I applied to college, I knew that I wanted to study computer science. I had already taken Advanced Placement computer science, developed iPhone applications as part of a summer internship at a startup, and participated on the winning team of an international robotics competition. I had access to an amazing support network, which I needed in order to thrive in such a challenging and fast-paced field, and I understood that many others didn’t have that network and that was why they were staying out of tech.
At Stanford, I joined she++ during my freshman fall because I felt strongly that building a community of female technologists was the only way to encourage others my age to give it a try. When it came time to design she++’s organizational initiatives for the 2013-2014 academic year, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to focus on high school outreach. Where would I be today, were it not for my high school and its computer science classes? I certainly would not be at Stanford—coming from the east coast, I probably wouldn’t have even applied.
I benefited from the resources of my school, from the positive feedback I received from my parents, from the fortune of having a cousin in tech who offered me an internship. But, lots of other students aren’t given the same opportunities or resources or encouragement that I was. That’s what the #include Fellowship Program is all about; it’s about giving those resources, sharing that passion, and encouraging action through the promise of reward. Because, as much of a reward as it is to have the chance to attend the #include Summit in the spring, the biggest reward of all will be to the high school students who discover their passion when it matters most; before it’s too late to do something about it.
More information about the #include Fellowship can be found at sheplusplus.com/includefellowship. Please help us spread the word!
About the guest bloggers: Lucy Wang is a sophomore at Stanford majoring in CS and co-director of the #include Fellowship Program. She is interested in human-computer interaction and has done research on using crowdsourcing to codify programming behavior. She is also a tutor at Breakout Mentors. Lucy was a '11 Davison Fellow and a '12 Intel Science Talent Search Semifinalist. Rachel Mellon is a sophomore at Stanford University majoring in CS, with a focus in information. She is co-director of she++ and co-director of the #include Fellowship Program. In 2013, she interned at Google in Ads Infrastructure. She is also a Generation Google Scholarship Recipient. Rachel also enjoys reading Science Fiction, singing, and analyzing movies.