Welcome to Womxn in Computer Science at Amherst!

This article was written by Guest Reporters April Dottin-Carter’23 (WiCS President), Karen Liu’23 (WiCS Secretary and Website Content Writer), and Hope Tsai’23 (WiCS Website Content Writer).

To learn more about WiCS, check out their website shown above!

April Dottin-Carter ’23 believes that when people with strong, positive morals and diverse backgrounds come together to innovate the world’s future technologies, technology can reach more communities and push humanity towards global equity. Midway through her first year at Amherst, she revived Amherst’s Womxn in Computer Science Club to address the lack of gender diversity in the computer science department and the issues that manifest as a result.

The mission of Womxn in Computer Science (WiCS) is to foster a community at Amherst College where womxn can feel seen, connected, and supported in their pursuits of technology and computer science.

There is a severe lack of womxn’s representation in STEM fields, especially in tech. In the United States, womxn only comprise 18% of the degrees earned in computer science; men comprise the remaining 82%. Most colleges boast a 50-50 ratio in the overall student demographic, and introductory courses for computer science commonly reflect this even ratio. However, it becomes troublingly skewed in higher-level courses (Rayome). This low retention rate can be attributed to multiple reasons, including a lack of womxn role models in technology, a confidence gap between genders, and gender stereotypes (such as the male geek-programmer). The low-retention-rate phenomenon is so prevalent that it has been coined the “leaky pipeline.” (Cereijido)

Evidently, womxn in tech need to be supported, and WiCS serves to do so at the root: college.

WiCS events and opportunities aim to strengthen and enrich our community in both the practical and the social aspects of tech.

Beth Linker '98
Beth Linker ’98

This semester marks the start of our very special WiCS Alumni Speaker Series, a sequence of stellar workshops, community discussions, and presentations, featuring womxn-identifying Amherst alumni. Involved in the tech industry, our speakers are excited to share their knowledge and experiences with the budding new generation of technologists!

Last month, we were struck by the first presentation part of the Speaker Series – Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started In Tech featuring Beth Linker ‘98. In this event, Beth shared their thoughts on planning (and not planning!) a career in the tech industry and their experience as a director of product management.

Deb Holmes ‘91 (left) and Alicia Bassolino ‘05 (right)
Deb Holmes ‘91 (left) and Alicia Bassolino ‘05 (right)

This Thursday, March 25th at 5 pm EST, we look forward to our second event: A Discussion with Product Managers featuring Deb Holmes ‘91 and Alicia Bassolino ‘05. As womxn in the tech industry, Deb and Alicia have much experience in overcoming extra obstacles. Come listen to their hard-earned knowledge, as well as the details of how Amherst has prepared them for life in product management and software engineering!

Marissa Radensky '19
Marissa Radensky ’19

To close this semester’s Speaker Series, Marissa Radensky ’19 will share her experience in computer science research, introducing womxn to the possibilities of computer science research and encouraging them to enter the field. Come hear how she has continued down this path from studying at Amherst to where she is now, studying human-computer interaction (HCI) for her Ph.D. at the University of Washington. Her current research focuses on how to help end-users understand when and when not to trust intelligent systems.

You can register for any of these events on our website.

Outside of the WiCS Alumni Speaker Series, the club is collaborating with the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) to host our biweekly Tea Time meetings. Have you ever felt disrespected as a womxn in STEM? Intimidated by the plethora of men in your classes? Need a space to blow off steam or even just a safe space to meet other womxn who share their experiences? Spill some tea at Tea Time with AWIS and WiCS on the first and third Saturdays of each month at 3 pm EST. Students can join the event via Zoom here.

Over winter break, five of our WiCS members undertook the endeavor to design, write, and build a revamped website for the club! If you would like to stay updated on WiCS events and opportunities, you can view our club calendar and sign up for our mailing list by visiting https://wicsamherst.herokuapp.com. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @WiCSAmherst!

Works Cited

Cereijido, Antonia, and Alina Selyukh. “Why Aren’t There More Women In Tech? A Tour Of Silicon Valley’s Leaky Pipeline.” NPR, NPR, 21 Dec. 2016, www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/21/505864391/why-arent-there-more-women-in-tech-a-tour-of-silicon-valleys-leaky-pipeline

Rayome, Alison DeNisco. “The State of Women in Computer Science: An Investigative Report.” TechRepublic, TechRepublic, 29 Sept. 2017, www.techrepublic.com/article/the-state-of-women-in-computer-science-an-investigative-report