Ina Fried

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Stanford Students Hope Posting Documentary Online Will Get More Women to Code

It’s quite common to hear a room full of older techies talking about the need to get more girls interested in computers.

picture alliance / Robert Schlesinge Ayna Agarwal, speaking Tuesday at DLDwomen in Munich.

But in Munich this week, it was a pair of 20-year-old college students who were urging older women to add coding to their repertoire. By doing so, the pair said, today’s working women can serve as role models and better mentor the next generation.

Ayna Agarwal and Ellora Israni, the founders of She++, made the entreaty as part of a talk they gave on Tuesday at the DLDwomen conference in Munich.

Israni said that she was originally planning to major in psychology, but realized that computer skills would ultimately help her in any profession she pursued.

“I took a leap of faith a year in, and I changed my major,” Israni said. “I’m asking you to take the same leap of faith.”

DLD founder Steffi Czerny praised the effort, calling it the most important of all the presentations onstage, and vowed to learn some code herself.

“This is our future,” Czerny said. “We shouldn’t be afraid to code.”

Getting more women in computing would solve the shortage of American computer science professionals, the pair argue. Today, women make up about 20 percent of computer science students. But if they were to make up 60 percent — as they do of the overall college enrollment — there would be almost twice as many computer science students graduating as there are currently.

The pair have been on a mission to boost the number of women coders. Their next step will come on Monday, as they make their film — “She++: The Documentary” — publicly available. The film has already been screened more than 100 times, translated into five languages and shown in a dozen countries.

Agarwal said getting more women to code won’t just boost the ranks of female engineers but could also mean better products.

If more women had been helping to program Siri, Agarwal said, perhaps the first generation of the software would have been able to direct people where to find birth control, for example.

“We need more ‘femgineers’ to think about these things,” she said.

The full film will be online Monday, but in the meantime, here’s the trailer:

And if you want to get to know Israni and Agarwal a bit better, here’s a video the pair did at the conference:

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