Gender representation is an issue in the forefront of the social justice conversation with trending topics like #Metoo and #ShePersisted. Representation in the sciences has been a contentious issue for decades and scientists like Marie Curie and Katherine Johnson are under-celebrated in the field.
Poulomi Banerjee, a second year computer science major and mathematics minor at SF State and founder of the Lean In circle at SF State hopes to change that narrative. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics is a field where only 30 percent of women make up the workforce making it mostly male dominated. At SF State, the female to male ratio in computer science is 1-to-7, which shows that even in college women face adversity in STEM.
Banerjee is a co-founder of the SF State Lean In circle which connects computer science and engineering. Banerjee hopes to encourage women to go into the industry despite the challenges they face.
“[Women] feel that they aren’t fit to be in computer science simply because they aren’t men,” said Banerjee.
One of the events computer science majors participate in are hackathons –– an event where coders, in either groups or individually, participate competitively to work on software and to achieve a goal of creating a functioning product by the end of the event such as a social media application to that helps people manage their finances effectively.
“Hackathons feel almost uncomfortable because there are barely any women there,” said Banerjee.
Along with Banerjee, SF State computer science major Lorraine Goveas helps women at SF State deal with being outnumbered in classes. Women average 14 percent of the class size in the computer science department at SF State.
Although Goveas does not feel as though she’s been discriminated against because of her gender at SF State, she still does enjoy going to women tech events in the City where she meets several women in the industry and hearing their experiences of being women in tech.
“I was able to get an internship at Mastercard for the summer and that further inspired me to set a mission to help other rising female computer science majors, “ said Banerjee.
The #MeToo movement helped individuals feel less alone and encouraged others to come forward with their own stories of marginalization, according to Christen Nguyen, a 23-year old former Santa Clara University computer science and engineering student.
“It was kind of a culture shock for me when I got to college. I was one of seven girls in my entire major’s graduating class. It took awhile for me to really feel like I belonged, even by the time I graduated,” said Nguyen.
Lean In is just one of many groups that have brought up the conversation on just the surface of problems with women at work.
Goveas expressed a desire to empower more women to get into the dynamic industry.
“I hope to encourage more women to be in computer science and show them that there are people in industry that are females,” she said.