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Four Ideas On How To Get More Women In Tech, by Stanford President, John Hennessy

by Milicent Atieno

Four Ideas On How To Get More Women In Tech, by Stanford President, John Hennessy

If you read the article we featured on a veteran editor on the African tech scene, Michelle Atagana. She implicitly said that the ‘Women in Tech’ campaign has to be an all-inclusive campaign and not divisive in nature, pitching women versus men. Men have to be involved in that campaign; for it have the desired effect.

Well, during the Intel Capital’s Global Summit. Stanford University President, John LeRoy Hennessy, gave his contribution towards the ‘Women In Tech’ campaign by raising four pertinent challenges facing the campaign and providing their respective solutions. Hennessy is also a director at Google and Cisco and a co-founder of various tech companies.

The following are the four challenges facing ‘Women In Tech’ campaigns and the four remedies as proposed by John Hennessy:

Hennessy noted that there is a system breakdown for the girl child education somewhere along middle school and high school. He said that, while in elementary school, girls seems to be doing better than boys in science and math, but they start falling behind during the adolescent ages. Hennessy proposes: there be more role models to inspire the girls and “getting them to believe that they can create a better world.”

He also picked out the ‘Gamification Culture’ to be a heavy impediment for girls to develop interest in computers. All the “killing people and killing monsters” business that’s involved in most video games, which boys like so much and “it’s not what girls found attractive” seem to have a negative effect with regards to girls getting interested in computers. Hennessy notes that this problem is slowing fixing itself, with the advent of social media, which is proving to be a more fun platform for girls than the boys.

The third problem, he noted was the “isolation effect” at institutions of higher learning. You find women to be a minority in STEM classes, and as tough as they can be, when they get a disappointing grade, they seldom have peers to give them moral support and encouragement. Hennessy’s solution is that there needs to be a better support network in institutions of higher learning, dedicated to encouraging the female students.

Lastly Hennessy said that most women view computer science as a very lonely pursuit, mainly involving, “sitting in front of a terminal for 10 hours a day, coding all the time, without any interaction with anyone else.” To address this situation he said, “I’ve mentored a lot of people. I take them down to Google and show them people working together.” His intention for doing so is to show girls that working with computer is not always about becoming a misanthrope who knows more about coding than he knows about socializing.

Hennessy further noted that Stanford is now enrolling more female students in computer science and that for the first time the university has a woman, Persis Drell, as the dean of engineering.

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