she++: A Stanford-Born Documentary Aimed at Forming More Women Coders

As the economy stands today, U.S. employers will soon face a severe shortage in the number of skilled workers. By 2020, U.S. businesses will need 1.4 million computer scientists, but, based on today’s graduation rates, American-trained scientists will fill a mere 30% of those jobs. Contributing to this shortage is the low number of women enrolled in computer science programs. Two Stanford students aim to change that through she++: The Documentary and the she++ program.

Though neither Ellora Israni nor Ayna Agrawal began attending Stanford University as technical students, after a year and a half they switched to technical degree programs. In retrospect, they realized that a lack of women role models in technology fields figured into their initial hesitation to join computer science and software-related programs. To encourage other young women to join these fields and to foster mentorships between “femgineers” and women tech students, Israni and Agrawal created the she++ community. What started as a conference on women in technology, featuring inspiring women speakers from companies such as Google, Facebook, and Dropbox, evolved into a community that empowers women to join computer science fields.


Creating a Documentary to Change the Country’s Workforce

She++ Women Entrepreneurship infographicAs part of the she++ initiative, Israni and Agrawal created a documentary of the same name to explain why it’s so important that women join the tech industry. After screening their documentary over 100 times in more than 12 countries, the founders think it’s time the whole world had access to their film. Starting Monday, she++: The Documentary will be available on Vimeo for worldwide streaming.

she++: The Documentary demonstrates the nation’s dire need for more female engineers. Though women make up about 60% of all undergraduates in the country, they comprise only 20% of the total number of computer science majors. “If women were just represented proportionally [in computer science departments], we would double the number of software engineers this nation is making every year,” says Jocelyn Goldfein, Director of Engineering at Facebook, in the documentary’s trailer. “That would be timely because the number of jobs is tripling.”


A Source of Inspiration

Israni and Agrawal are passionate about inspiring other women to become sofware engineers. “Try computer programming and I think you’ll realize that you’ll learn a lot more about it than just programming,” Agrawal said. “You’ll learn about your persistence, you’ll learn about creativity, and you’ll learn about how so much of our world works today.”

Will Israni and Agrawal be able to leverage the power of she++ to reweave the fabric of the American workforce? If so, their efforts might represent a Rosie the Riveter moment in American history. Though that might be too much to hope for, if the Stanford pair can encourage even a few women to join tech, the effect might snowball, in the long run bringing and more women to tech fields.

H/T to AllThingsD

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