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Following in the Footsteps of Anita Borg

Anita Borg

“The wave is cresting, and you can ride it,” Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Phyllis Frankl exhorted the attendees at “Girls Talk Tech,” an event organized by Office of Enrollment Management and held in early October. Frankl, a keynote speaker, was referring to major ongoing efforts to diversify the STEM workforce and achieve gender parity in the engineering fields—an initiative that many across the country are calling 50/50 by 2020. 

Those efforts were readily apparent at the event—mounted in honor of pioneering computer scientist Anita Borg, who has been lauded for breaking the “silicon ceiling” and encouraging other women to join the technological revolution, not as bystanders, but as active participants and leaders.

During a panel discussion moderated by doctoral candidate and cyber privacy expert Tehila Minkus, sophomore Linda Nguyen, Google engineer Nicole Power, and ZocDoc representative Anshu Singha explained what their typical days are like (the answer is busy!) and gave advice born of their experiences in breaking their own silicon ceilings.

Anshu was there not simply to give advice, however. Acting as a recruiter for ZocDoc, a young company seeking to improve the way patients find doctors and make appointments, she explained that while only seven of the company’s 70 engineers were women, ZocDoc was actively seeking to improve those figures and had numerous internships and even entry-level positions available.

Representatives from several major companies, including Twitter and HBO, echoed her sentiments. “We intend to increase the overall representation of women in the company to 35% as quickly as possible, certainly by the end of 2016,” the Twitter recruiter explained. “And we want to see similar jumps in the number of underrepresented minorities joining our workforce as well.” (Twitter has won widespread praise for making its diversity goals public and for promising to be held accountable for meeting them.)

“We provide a great opportunity to work at the nexus of technology and entertainment,” the HBO rep asserted. “And we’re always looking for software professionals who are inventive, creative, and flexible across a variety of disciplines, including program management, test, and design. I hope that the young women here tonight will check out our internship program and other initiatives.”

One student who was eagerly checking out the plethora of career possibilities on display at the event was Katherine Scott, who expects to earn her master’s degree in Management of Technology in 2017. “It’s exciting to see so many companies that not only provide wonderful, challenging work environments but who are also interested in maintaining dynamic and diverse workforces,” she said. “It makes me feel confident that I’ll find an employer whose values align with my own and with whom I’ll be proud to work.”