Pacesetters: Tech program promotes more women in computer careers

HOUGHTON – Sophia Farquhar didn’t have a computer coding class available to her when she was in high school, but she did have one computer-focused class.

“I took a web design class,” she said.

Farquhar, who is a junior with a computer science major at Michigan Technological University, said she’s not yet certain what kind of a career she wants, but it will probably involve computers.

“I do like the design aspect,” she said. “Human-computer interactions fascinate me.”

Linda Ott, Tech professor of computer science, said since 2013, the university has been involved with a two-year program called Pacesetters created by the National Center of Women and Information Technology in Boulder, Colorado. The intent of the program is for participating institutions to develop aggressive and measurable goals to increase the number of women in the computing and technology workforce.

Last summer, Farquhar said she worked for a company in the Detroit area designing their website.

“It was nice,” she said. “They were a small company.”

Because the company was small, Farquhar said she had a great deal of latitude in how she worked making the website. She was one of two women doing computer work, but there were fewer than 10 people in the company, so the ratio of men to women wasn’t so bad.

Hannah Wilder will be graduating this year with a degree in computer science and statistics, and she already has a job at Domino’s Pizza in Ann Arbor waiting for her, but she won’t be designing software.

“What I will be doing is more programming on the fly,” she said.

She will be working on programs that helps stores keep track of their inventory, Wilder said.

Wilder said she did have some coding classes at downstate Grand Haven High School.

“We had that for one quarter,” she said.

Next semester, Wilder said she will be doing some independent study in computing.

“I created this program that did astronomy math,” she said.

Wilder said her experience at Tech gave her good training in technical concepts, which should help her with developing a career.

“The education we got here allows (us) to do that,” she said.


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