She++ Documentary, Computer Science, and Impostor Syndrome

While watching video lectures online, I came across a short but sweet documentary based on the organization she++ made last summer.  The founders of she++, Ayna Agarwal and Ellora Israni, met during a computer science course at Stanford when they came up with the concept for creating an interactive conference for women.  The first annual she++ conference highlighted current tech trends and women leaders in the industry, and the organization has grown to become an online community since then.  She++ encourages more women to study computer science, the main priority that I champion with Our Code.  For that, I support them.

Let’s just look at the bigger picture, which Jocelyn Goldfein, Director of Engineering at Facebook, affectionately calls a Rosie the Riveter moment of clarity:

“Women are the great untapped bench. Lets say women are 60% of undergraduates, and they’re 20% of computer science majors. Imagine a hypothetical Computer Science program with 100 students each year, at 20% where women are 20 of those, men are 80 of those. If we simply took women to their appropriate portion of undergraduates which is 60%, for every 40 men there will be 60 women, for those 80 men, there would be 120 women, that would be 200 students, not 100. So if women were just represented proportionately, we would double the number of software engineers this nation is making every year, and that would be timely because the number of [these] jobs is tripling”

The documentary also spends a short segment on Impostor Syndrome, which is something I see a lot of women of color deal with as they begin to rise in their professions.  Impostor syndrome, or the fraud phenomenon, is a phycho-social setback in which people are unable to internalize and become comfortable with their accomplishments.  It is most common among high-achieving women who feel their work to be over-evaluated.

“I was terrified to take the Introduction to Computer Science course. The expectation was that if you studied computer science you must have used this before.  I spent a lot of time thinking that I just wasn’t qualified for this. I hadn’t been coding since I was 12, and my classmates, some of them had” ~Kimber Lockhart, Director of Engineering for Box

“There are some very good statistics shown here at Stanford that when women don’t succeed at first, they blame themselves. A woman who gets a B+ thinks she’s doing horribly and a man who gets a B+ thinks he’s doing fine.”~ Eric Roberts, Professor of Computer Science, Standford

The internal fear of being “found out”– that you may not be as good as think you are– feeds this phenomenon.  It manifests feelings of deep insecurity which can discourage many women who may shy away from STEM fields or drop out as a result.  The popularity of certain industry fields dominated by women, deemed as pink-collar jobs, assures them in terms of confidence.  Therefore women feel more comfortable going into pink-collar fields (education, social work, nursing, retail, etc) after seeing other women succeed, a problem that the tech industry has not overcome as of yet.  In essence, building confidence in girls at an early age is key to addressing this problem.

“Fake it until you make it. If you project self-confidence, the people around you will believe in you, then suddenly you’ll realize you’re not faking it anymore.”~ Jocelyn

The documentary is a great source of encouragement to start your day.  Watch below and enjoy!

2 thoughts on “She++ Documentary, Computer Science, and Impostor Syndrome

    • Developing confidence in your skills as you develop and grow is difficult when entering a new industry, but it’s the only way to defeat imposter syndrome. Women with IS are less likely to negotiate pay, find valuable mentors, and request promotions when they meet the requirements. It’s one issue I hope to explore more in future posts.

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