Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Changing the ratio

TORVALDSI have known I’ve wanted to go into tech for a long time. This was inspired by my father. Even before I knew what he did, my aspiration was to be “like him,” whatever that meant. As I got older and started realizing what tech culture was like — primarily male — I was initially excited.

As a middle-schooler I had no luck with boys. My beautiful best friend attracted all the sixth-grade boys, and I often felt left out. The idea of being surrounded by boys and having no competition for their attention sounded fun and flattering. Of course, this was not my primary reason for wanting to be a web designer, or a software engineer for Neopets, or whatever that week’s goal was. But it was definitely part of it. This is embarrassing now.

My interest in tech waxed and waned in high school. As my interest in feminism grew, my excitement about working in an environment that was mostly male weakened. Tech’s “bro” culture was exhausting and frustrating and boring.

I still sought out ways to improve my skills, taking an independent study course on Python and learning to code Arduinos, but I was less excited about the work I did. What was the point? I didn’t want to go to college classes with, statistically speaking, one or two other girls.

And then I won the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Aspirations in Computing award.

I applied for the award on a whim, because I wanted to add to my resume, and because a girl I admired had won it the year before. I forgot all about the application until I got an email congratulating me on being an Oregon and Southwest Washington regional winner and a national runner-up. I was excited and happy, but I didn’t expect too much. An organizer at the event instructed everyone to request to join the community’s Facebook page, and I did.

The Facebook group has, as silly as it seems, changed my life.

The group is made up of over 1,500 previous recipients of the award. These girls are amazing. One 16-year-old had been contracted by the U.S. Navy for her work on autonomous unmanned vehicles. Another high-school girl just had a day named in her honor in Pittsburgh. One college graduate was just named as one of “35 women under 35 changing the tech industry.” Many have successful, exciting jobs at companies that range from Google and Bank of America to any emergent startup you can name. It’s inspiring and wonderful, and it’s exclusive to women.

This award is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I have renewed faith in the tech industry, and when I stumble, these girls will support me. If you are a high-school girl who is interested in tech and specifically in computing — or if you know one — I have no higher recommendation than the NCWIT AiC award. Applying is fun and easy and worth it. The dominance of men in tech should and can finally be replaced by equality.

Patricia Torvalds is a senior at Riverdale and a regular columnist for the Review. For questions about the award, email her at education@lakeoswegoreview.com.

Add a comment




Local Weather

Cloudy

64°F

Lake Oswego

Cloudy

Humidity: 38%

Wind: 7 mph

  • 6 Mar 2015

    Partly Cloudy 65°F 39°F

  • 7 Mar 2015

    Sunny 68°F 38°F