Open Letter to the Girls of the World

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Dear Girls of the World,

girls

Source: http://hourofcode.com/us

I spent a lot of time as a young girl like you, wondering what type of career I might like. Now I’m part of a profession that is growing fast, with plenty of openings for high-paying jobs (a projected 1 million jobs in 2020, actually!) and lots of great applications. Sound cool?

I’m a computer scientist.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Wait, girls don’t really do computer science,” but you would be wrong! Just look at me! In fact, 10 million girls gave it a try during last year’s hour of code!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget about the diversity in certain fields, and computer science is one of them. There is a very clear, often reinforced, stereotype that every computer scientist looks, acts, and thinks the same. They’re nerdy boys who like video games and tinkering with computers. Well, while those nerdy boys are great (I even married one!), they sure aren’t the whole picture.

As a computer scientist myself, I don’t play many video games, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t particularly like computers. I like being creative, teaching, and solving puzzles. Many people who meet me are surprised I’m a computer scientist – but they shouldn’t be. Computer science is all about solving puzzles and being creative; you’re building something new every day! You have to find creative approaches to exciting problems, and then you get to solve those problems using cool new technology! How does teaching fit in? Well, I develop educational software. If I taught in a classroom, I’d reach maybe 30 kids a year. But now, the projects I work on reach hundreds of thousands of kids a year. It’s pretty awesome!

Computer science is full of people who don’t fit the stereotype, and they bring a diversity and difference of ideas that are critical to the field. Consider Marissa Mayer, CEO and president of Yahoo!, for example. She used to be a ballet dancer and admits to loving cupcakes and high fashion. She agrees that there is a need to show off the diversity within computer science. In an interview with The Huffington Post, she said, “The stereotype of that very complete and rigid picture of what being a computer scientist means really hurts people's understanding and ability to identify with the role and say, 'Yes, this is something I can be in and want to be in.'"


We need a diverse group of people to join in. If everyone thought the same way and had the same backgrounds and interests, we’d miss out on a lot of important insights. Grace Hopper is a perfect example of how the diversity of ideas can lead to innovation. She is one of the founders of modern computer programming. She proposed that computers could “understand” English commands rather than the complex, mathematical binary languages that were used before. Her superiors laughed at this proposal, but her prototypes proved that it could be done and revolutionized the way computer programs are written today.

The world is full of diversity, and so is the world of computer science. People have different backgrounds, personalities, and interests. In fact, women have found some amazing ways to combine computer science with their other passions. It's incredible all the things you can do with computer science!

So how can you join in? The #HourofCode gives a great peek into the world of computer science, a way to dip your toe in the water and see what it’s all about. So join in with millions of other girls around the world (me included!) in this learning event. See you soon!

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About Author

Jen Sabourin

Jen Sabourin is a software developer and research scientist with Curriculum Pathways. She works on developing innovative educational tools and understanding how these tools can best be used to support learners. She joined the team in 2010 as an intern while working on her PhD in Computer Science at North Carolina State University. Both in her graduate work and on the Curriculum Pathways team she focuses on how artificial intelligence and data mining can be used to drive innovation in educational technologies. Outside of work she loves DIY, cooking, and hanging out with her husband and new baby.

3 Comments

  1. This is great and I am definitely sharing it with our Techgirlz org, in which we are trying to get more young girls interested in tech. They just need to be exposed to all of the possibilities!

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