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Two Alumni Explore Women & Code

Thursday, January 22, 2015   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Karen Thigpen
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Two Alumni Explore Women & Code

Ever wonder why you don’t see many women in computer science jobs? You might see plenty of women in tech companies who work in business development, talent management, or marketing, but do you see many who code?   The global economy is demanding more and more computer scientists and software engineers, but why are there few females who pursue these degrees and work in these fields?  AIESEC alumni Robin Hauser Reynolds (Berkeley ’86) and Staci Hartman (Berkeley ’86, US ’87), two business women turned film producers, began pondering this very intriguing question a few years after sending their own daughters off to college and into the workforce.  The result was a new documentary called, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap. Hauser Reynolds told us:

“Watching our daughters was part of what inspired us to do this film.  First of all we were watching headlines all the time and news talking about how if you want a job coming out of college you really need to know something about computer science.  So we were talking to our kids about taking computer science classes.  Then my daughter called and said that she was dropping out of her CS major because she thought she was underperforming, when in reality she was in the top third of her class.  This is one of the things that is happening to women in computer science when they don’t feel like they have the infrastructure and the support to stay in this male-dominated field.  The White House says that by the year 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs in the US and only 400,000 computer scientists to fill those jobs, which means that there will be 1 million unfilled computer science jobs five years from now.  There is incredible opportunity for anybody who knows how to code; right now we are only drawing from half the population.  We need to fill these jobs or we will have to outsource them.” 

Robin and Staci are doing something about this gender gap through Robin’s company Finish Line Features, which produces cause-based documentary films.  Finish Line’s  films tell stories that raise awareness on pressing societal issues, and its goal is to educate and motivate audiences to take action.  The film Robin and Staci are currently working on is Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, which exposes the dearth of American female and minority software engineers and explains the reasons for the gender gap and digital divide.  Robin says the following about Code and what they hope to achieve:

“Our goal is to inspire change in stereotypes, in the way that girls perceive computer scientists, in the way people of color perceive computer scientists in the field.  We hope to change stereotypes, or at least begin conversations around changing stereotypes.  We’d like to inspire change in the educational pipeline to make computer science more comfortable for women and accessible to people of color.  It’s not about making it easier.  It’s about making women feel more welcome in the classroom.  It’s about letting the start-up culture understand that they need women in the space and that women need to feel safe and valued.  Sexism in startup culture is rampant and this must change.” 

This is not the first time that Staci and Robin have collaborated on something.  They first met at AIESEC Berkeley in 1984 and worked in the local committee together.  They then went their separate ways with Robin pursuing an MBA from Thunderbird and becoming a stockbroker, and Staci working in marketing for tech companies.  In 2011, Staci moved back to San Francisco and joined Robin in her efforts to produce a film called Running for Jim, which tells the story of record-breaking high school running coach Jim Tracy, his battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and his 2010 championship team that gained international attention.  Running for Jim won 14 awards and screened at 22 festivals in five countries in 2013 and 2014.

When asked about what type of impact she hopes CODE will have, Robin shared:

 "From the work that I have done on this film, I know that there are a number of forces that come into play such as societal pressures, sexism, stereotypes, discouragement in school and in the workforce, and socioeconomic barriers.  We are making CODE in order to expose the gender gap issue in hope that we can inspire change and narrow the digital divide. ."

Right now, Staci and Robin are raising the funds necessary to produce the film.  They just finished an Indiegogo campaign which raised $86,000.  They have also brought in corporate sponsors such as CitiVentures, Capital One Bank, SVB, Ericsson, NetApp and Pivotal, MathWorks, Qualcomm, and they will continue to raise more funds until they have enough.  Robin attributes her ability to cold-call and call on sponsors from her days in AIESEC.  They plan to launch on the 2015 film festival circuit and then do an educational distribution to high schools and colleges.  They also plan to get it out to corporations for employee training. 

Robin had the following advice to give to alumni:

“One thing the CTO of Twitter says is that it’s not that everyone has to become a programmer.  Rather, everybody should know a little about economics, a little about law, and, for the kids that are growing up these days, everyone should know a little about computer science.  Our cell phones, our navigation systems are filled with code.  Basically all of humanity is touched by code.  It’s really important to know something about it.  The difference between being a user and being a maker is knowing how to program.”  

Learn more about CODE documentary and the work that Robin and Staci are doing here.  If you would like to contribute to the making of CODE, Robin and Staci are accepting tax deductible donations for the project through the San Francisco Film Society.

Comments...

Kenneth Balog says...
Posted Friday, January 23, 2015
Robin and Staci, please contact me at either kbalog@hoopladigital.com or 804-714-8458 as I'd like to add the doc to hoopla digital. Thanks, Ken

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