FemCode promises to provide support for women in STEM
FemCode, a club that promotes the advancement of women in technology, is now an officially chartered club at Baruch College.
The club’s main mission, as indicated on its official Facebook page, is to “foster a supportive and encouraging community as well as extra resources for women who are interested in pursuing a career in the technology field.” Members of the club are also working to educate men on the topics of unfairness and imbalance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related fields for women.
Ana Arias-Gonzalez, a junior majoring in computer information systems, started the club due to the lack of support she felt as a woman in her computer science class. Prior to attending Baruch, Arias-Gonzalez was a student at the University of Buffalo, where she took a computer science course as an elective.
“I was never actually interested in computers, and I intended to be a marketing major until I took the class,” said Arias-Gonzalez, who serves as the club's president. “The only problem was that in about a 70-person lecture hall, there were four women, including the teacher and myself. At times a 25-year-old man would come up to me and ask me for help because it was something I was into. But there wasn’t that much support for women there.”
Upon entering Baruch, Arias-Gonzalez decided against her original intention to fulfill a marketing major and shifted toward computer information systems, which was the closest alternative to computer science.
She noticed that the Department of Statistics and Computer Information Systems had a faculty of about 25 members, but only a handful of them were women.
According to Arias-Gonzalez, along with Brooklyn College’s Women in Computer Science club, FemCode is one of only two technology-based clubs that emphasizes female involvement in the entire CUNY system.
It is one of the goals of FemCode to partner up with various organizations outside of Baruch in order to create a larger impact.
Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York is an initiative put forth by Cornell Tech that is offered to CUNY students who wish to take introductory computer science classes. Leaders of FemCode hope to integrate the club with WiTNY.
Although FemCode officially became a chartered club on campus, the process was arduous since members of the executive board could not find suitable schedules and faced administrative issues along the way.
In order to gather people for their first general interest meeting, the members marketed posters with their faces and personal stories related to computer science.
Arias-Gonzalez said that her single-line story was, “I still get strange looks when I tell someone I’m a computer science major.”
She said that it shocked her to see how many people had a specific notion of what someone in the field of computer science looks like.
During its first general interest meeting in the Spring semester of 2016, FemCode saw an overwhelming amount of interest.
“I was sitting there and I couldn’t believe it. We had to get chairs from other places since people were standing,” Arias-Gonzalez commented. She mentioned that the club received an encouraging shoutout from the Office of Student Life as well.
The executive board members of FemCode have planned various events that are upcoming. They expect to have a “Diverse Women’s Symposium,” where they will invite women of different races and sexual orientations to speak to the members and other students about working in a male-dominated field. They also have a video game mixer coming up, during which the challenge would be to beat out a professional female gamer in order to win a prize.
In addition to expanding within Baruch, the leaders of FemCode would like to expand across the CUNY-wide spectrum and join forces with other major organizations that teach coding.
FemCode has also reached out to other technology-based clubs such as Hack for Baruch and GirlUp in order to collaborate on events.
FemCode’s final event for the semester will be a social that will aim to celebrate the fact that the club got chartered.
Arias-Gonzalez, for now, is focused on expanding the club to accommodate and appeal to as many students as possible.