By Samuel Still, Staff Writer –
At a recent meeting of Girls in Computer Science (GiCS), Anna Sherman, a Chattanooga developer, discussed the issues she faces as a woman in the computer science industry.
GiCS is a student-organized club dedicated to giving women who are involved with, or interested in, computer science a place to meet other like-minded women.
The club held a fireside chat on Feb. 11 where Anna Sherman provided advice and answers to girls who are looking to pursue careers in computer science.
She said that, with the push for diversity, more women are getting jobs in the industry, but that it is important that women are being hired for their skills not their gender.
“[Being hired for being a woman] was a thing I felt like I experienced at one point,” said Sherman, “where I got the job, but then kind of felt like I got robbed of that achievement when I realized I didn’t go through the same rigorous process everyone else did.”
Sherman’s experience includes being a developer and team lead at Zillion, a jewelry insurance firm, and being the vice chairwoman of the Women Initiative, a division of the Chattanooga Technology Council which focuses on providing support and recognition of women in the tech industry.
Sherman, who has a degree in mathematics, said that computer science was not originally in her plan for what she wanted to do with her life, but that once she found it, she knew it was what she wanted to do.
“My junior year of college I was required to take an intro to computer science class,” Sherman said, “and I fell in love with it. It was all the things I was looking for.”
Despite not majoring in computer science, Sherman said that she was able to learn computer science skills by developing a daily routine that allowed her to study and practice until she was proficient enough to get hired at a startup company.
Even with the push for more inclusivity, computer science, as well as the technology industry at large, is still a male-dominated field.
Vice President of GiCS Sarah Price said of this disparity, “… all my study groups consist of nearly all males. It is hard to make connections with other women in your field when you never see them.”
Price also mentioned that, because of the gender disparity in the field, there is a bias toward women that can hinder their work.
“I have had a situation working as a consultant at an enterprise company where a male just flat out refused to work with females, and so that was kind of frustrating,” Sherman said. “And we were told to work around it rather than address him directly about it,”
Despite gender disparities and biases, both Sherman and Price said that working and learning in the computer science field has been an extremely rewarding experience. Both encouraged women interested in the field to join the computer science community to jump start their careers and to work with like-minded individuals.
UTC has several computer science clubs like GiCS, but Sherman also suggested events like hack nights, meetups, socials and co-working days to get further involved in the community. Most of these events can be found on the Chattanooga Technology Council’s website and social media, and interested students are encouraged to attend to gain valuable experience in computer science.