A High School Coder on Why We Need More Women in STEM
The whole women-in-tech problem extends far beyond Silicon Valley—and we don’t just mean New York or Seattle or one of the other high-tech cities across America. Audrey Pe is a high school student in the Philippines who founded an inspiring organization that seeks to involve girls in STEM. Women in Tech, or WiTech for short, has members from all over the world working together to give women a voice in the notoriously male-dominated industry.
"The potential to use the internet, its resources, and tech innovations to make a difference in society is there," she told us. "It just needs to be maximized. I’m always excited to hear about teens like me who are using online platforms to help make the world better for future generations. After all, because Gen Z is so intertwined with our gadgets, why shouldn’t be be using them for the greater good?" See how she's doing just that below.
Tell us how you came up with the idea to create WiTech.
After teaching myself to code online, I found that the more exercises I did, the more I enjoyed coding and wanted to work in the field of tech. But as I entered high school, I realized how few female technologists there are. At 15, I wanted to understand why there was a lack of women in tech and how I could help close the gender pay gap. From there, I decided to interview women in tech from around the world to share their stories and inspire more women to enter the field of tech.
Just a couple of weeks after I turned 16, WiTech expanded from a blog to a community organization with a team of girls working towards WiTCon—the Philippines’ first women in tech conference by students, for students. The event is slated for March 2018 (women’s month!) and aims to expose Filipino students to the country’s women in tech community, through talks and workshops. The goal is to have students walk in with little knowledge of women in tech, and walk out inspired to support or become women in tech and make a difference in the community!
Who do you admire in this industry?
Reshma Saujani is a woman working towards gender equality in tech whom I continuously support and admire. She wrote a book called Women Who Don’t Wait in Line that discusses combating sexism and persevering through rough patches. Her non-profit, Girls Who Code, organizes summer immersion programs that teach girls around the USA to code. Reshma inspired me to start WiTech when I was 15, and taught me to be “unapologetically ambitious.”
How has the lack of female leadership impacted you, if at all?
Personally, I want to be able to enter the tech workplace when I grow up and feel like I belong there. Stories of women feeling out of place in Silicon Valley are microcosms of the bigger picture. I’ve experienced a lack of support towards my tech aspirations and feel a need to speak out about it and tell other girls that programming and startups aren’t just for guys.
What do you think everyone gets wrong about girls in tech?
After interviewing diverse women in tech from around the world, I have to say that it’s wrong for people to assume that all women in tech/programmers in general have lives that revolve solely around tech. I've profiled women who also love to model, dance, and write. We need to stop thinking of programmers as video game addicts who live in their parents’ basement, but instead as holistic individuals who don’t spend all their time coding. That way, we can break the stereotypes and encourage more people to give a shot at coding.