Women’s History Month: Resources for Empowering Women in Tech

March 2, 2022

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) has pulled together a list of resources for empowering women in technology, including on-campus groups, nationwide organizations and books that focus on women in STEM. We also highlight current leaders in tech and introduce you to some faculty members leading the way in expanding ICS education.

“Despite the fact that women remain sorely underrepresented in the tech field, there are countless women who have been pioneers in the field,” says Debra Richardson, herself a pioneer as the founding dean of ICS. She continues to pave the way for others, advocating for high-quality K-12 computer science education and serving as an advisory board member of Women in Technology at UCI (WIT@UCI).

“Women’s History Month is an important time to recognize those women who have had significant influence on computing and technology, especially because their innovations are so critical to ensuring that technology is made for everyone,” says Richardson. “Yet this month is also an important time for changing the narrative and acknowledging women currently contributing to the field and continuing to widen the trail for those who will follow.”

While not an exhaustive list, we hope you view the following as a foundation for reflecting on the gender gap in STEM fields and the tech industry.

Supporting Women at UCI
We start by listing some of the organizations focused on supporting women at UCI:

  • The Academic & Professional Women of UCI (A&PW) has a decades-long history at UCI with a longstanding tradition of supporting staff, faculty and students with a special emphasis on the women of UCI.
  • The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a not-for-profit educational and service organization that serves as the driving force to establish engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women.
  • Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS) is a social and professional nonprofit organization at UCI established to help and encourage women to pursue a college degree and a successful career in the computer science field.
  • Women in Leadership (WIL) empowers women to believe in themselves and set goals to achieve their dreams.
  • Women in Technology at UCI (WIT@UCI) provides a supportive community that recognizes and brings awareness to gender imbalances surrounding women with careers in technology and offers innovative approaches and solutions by connecting and empowering women together.
  • Women & Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE) is a national nonprofit mentorship organization dedicated to strengthening the lives and communities of young women through a curriculum-based group and one-on-one mentorship program.
  • Womxn’s Center for Success advances gender equity by raising consciousness on social justice concepts, fostering personal growth, building community connections, encouraging identity development and increasing access to resources that support holistic wellness.

Closing the Gender Gap in Tech
Beyond UCI, there are many organizations nationwide working to increase the representation of women in the tech industry:

  • Ada’s List is the place for professional women and nonbinary people who work in the tech sector to connect, conspire and take a stand.
  • The Anita Borg Institute connects, inspires and guides women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative.
  • Black Girls Code empowers girls of color ages 7-17 to be STEM leaders.
  • Girls Develop It creates welcoming, supportive opportunities for women and nonbinary adults to learn software development skills.
  • Girls in Tech is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the gender gap in tech.
  • Girls Who Code is working with legislators to close the gender gap in tech in K-12 classrooms.
  • League of Women Coders is a grassroots collective that focuses on coding, hacking and learning together.
  • Lesbians Who Tech is a community of LGBTQ women, nonbinary and trans individuals in and around tech (and the people who support them).
  • The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a network of change leaders focused on advancing innovation by correcting underrepresentation in computing.
  • The Next IT Girl educates, mentors and advances young women of color on all aspects of computer science and information technology.
  • Project Include is a nonprofit that uses data and advocacy to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry.
  • PyLadies is an international mentorship group with a focus on helping more women become active participants and leaders in the Python open-source community.
  • R Ladies is a worldwide organization to promote gender diversity in the R community.
  • Women 2.0 is a company focused on gender, diversity and inclusion in the tech and startup spaces.
  • Women in Technology International (WITI) is a leading organization for the advancement and inclusion of women in business and technology.
  • Women Who Code inspires women to excel in technology careers.

Reading and Learning
Here, we offer some suggested reading with a list that ranges from children’s books on coding and Grace Hopper to discussions of the “boys’ club,” sexist apps and female innovators:

Informatics Assistant Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum

Also, be sure to read the article, “‘It’s Just Human Dignity.’ Trans Writers and Journalists Struggle to Get Old Bylines Corrected,” which highlights ICS Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum and her extensive work to make name-change policies more inclusive.

“Facilitating name changes in our digital platforms is an equity issue that extends far beyond the needs of transgender people,” says Tanenbaum, who helped release guiding principles that have since been adopted by most major publishers. “While the particular vulnerabilities of trans people are what motivated the creation of these policies, I anticipate them being used to address long-standing inequalities that have disproportionately harmed women.” And at the top of her own suggested reading list is Nora Berenstain’s work on Epistemic Exploitation, which she views as “required reading for anyone seeking to do any work on equity and inclusion.”

Following Influential Leaders
We also offer a sampling of the many women doing trailblazing work in STEM fields:

Highlighting Women in ICS
Women make up close to 30 percent of the faculty teaching and conducting research in ICS. Here, we highlight a few who are leading the way in advancing ICS education and broadening its reach.

Statistics Professor of Teaching Mine Dogucu

Mine Dogucu is an assistant professor of teaching and vice chair of undergraduate studies in the Department of Statistics. She focuses on curriculum design and creating educational resources in statistics and data science that are accessible to novice statisticians. In particular, she has worked to make Bayesian statistics accessible at the undergraduate level, co-authoring the book Bayes Rules! An Introduction to Applied Bayesian Modeling. She also co-teaches Data Science in Health Sciences to high school students as part of the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science at UCI, and she co-chairs the national Undergraduate Statistics Project Competition and Electronic Undergraduate Statistics Research Conference (USPROC/eUSR). You can check out her blog posts on DataPedagogy.com. In addition to pedagogical research, her work includes collaborative research in applications of survey design, measurement, and missing data.

“As educators, it should be our primary goal to adopt inclusive teaching strategies as opposed to gatekeeping strategies,” says Dogucu. “As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to remind ourselves that gender identity is one form of identity. The inclusion in STEM should serve beyond gender identity and should be inclusive of the intersection of gender, racial, ethnic and class identities, as well as sexual orientation and disability status.”

Informatics Lecturer Emily Navarro

Emily Navarro is a continuing lecturer in the Department of Informatics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and her master’s and Ph.D. in ICS from UCI. Her dissertation, “SimSE: A Software Engineering Simulation Environment for Software Process Education,” resulted in an educational game that helps students learn and practice the software engineering process in a graphical, interactive and entertaining setting. SimSE is used today in university classrooms around the world. Navarro currently teaches classes centered around various software engineering topics, including requirements, design, programming and project management.

“Every female in STEM at UCI has a valuable contribution to make to the field, based on their unique background, strengths, and experiences,” says Navarro. “It is only when we welcome and encourage more women and other underrepresented groups into STEM does the field and the world in general benefit through better representation of the population at large.”

Computer Science Associate Professor of Teaching Jennifer Wong-Ma

Jennifer Wong-Ma is an associate professor of teaching and vice chair of undergraduate studies in the Department of Computer Science. She is also a faculty adviser of UCI’s Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS) and Commit the Change student organizations, co-chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Steering Committee, and a member of the Women in Technology at UCI (WIT@UCI) advisory board. She teaches systems and architecture courses and oversees the undergraduate ICS tutoring program. Her research interests include creating and studying the effectiveness of automated tools in CS education, hardware intellectual property protection, and wireless and distributed embedded systems. She received her Ph.D. in computer science from UCLA.

“As a faculty member, I strive every day to be an inspiration and role model for younger women in the field,” says Wong-Ma. “I feel a responsibility to guide women through the ongoing challenges faced. By sharing my experiences, stories and reflections through my various roles on campus, it is my hope that it will empower others to enact further change within their own careers.”

Shani Murray