Young women are the I.T. factor

Published: January 29, 2020

Digital enthusiasm aims to close the gender gap in technology

“The future of tech looks like us,” said participants in a special Queensborough winter workshop designed to promote women’s interest in technology by involving them in project-based programs, such as 3D printing and computer coding.

The two-day session in mid-January, organized by Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY), drew 17 students from multiple disciplines to the college’s advanced labs to study front-end web development, robotics, Amazon Web Services Cloud computing and more.

“Female students rarely make technology disciplines their first choice in academic fields. We want to evoke and boost their interest in technology through exposure to cutting-edge technologies,” explained Dr. Dugwon Seo, Assistant Professor, Queensborough Community College, Engineering Technology Department. “There will continue to be increased demand for people with technology skills and women are a minority in those fields.”

The percentage of women who graduate with degrees in technology-related disciplines is less than 1%, compared with 6% of men, according to WiTNY, a collaboration among Cornell Tech, the City University of New York (CUNY) and high-tech corporations.

Nyasia Miranda, Circe Gedeon, Dayana Iciano and Rebecca Huynh at the College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology Laboratories

Picture: Nyasia Miranda, Circe Gedeon, Dayana Iciano and Rebecca Huynh at the College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology Laboratories.

First-generation student, Circe Gedeon from Jamaica Queens, found the classes “unexpected” and “interesting” and said her exposure to different technology at Queensborough will shape the direction of her studies as she completes an Associate’s degree this spring and plans a transfer to a CUNY four-year college.

“I want to study medicine eventually and technology is certainly a big part of healthcare,” explained the Health Science major and undergraduate researcher with the CUNY Research Scholars Program at Queensborough.

A part-time home-health aide worker who moved to New York from Haiti three years ago, Gedeon said it took some time to understand how education worked here.  

“When I first came here [as a high school senior], I had no one to tell me what the system was like. It was hard to figure it out. But Queensborough has good programs and caring professors and staff who are supportive of students’ careers. You have to work hard, keep your eyes open and have determination. I tell my friends back home that they can trust this school,” she said.

Classmate Rebecca Huynh, a 19-year-old Digital Art & Design major, called the workshop an “eye-opener” in terms of app design and the possibilities 3D technology presented.

“[We] have this amazing resource, the lab, which I had no idea about. Now that I do, there’s so much going through my head about the possibilities of what I can do,” explained the former SUNY student, appreciative of the “welcoming and comfortable” workshop environment she and her friend, Nyasia Miranda, experienced.

“Queensborough, in my opinion,” continued Huynh, “is great for helping someone figure out the next step,” which for Huynh may be the Fashion Institute or Technology or Queens College. “The professors genuinely want to help [us] succeed.”

 

Queensborough Community College lecturer Michael Lawrence designed and hosted a portion of the workshop that provided hands-on learning opportunities for the students.

“Technology is interdisciplinary. Modern digital systems and automation are emerging everywhere. This is like an on-ramp for young women, no matter what degree they’re studying,” said Lawrence. “We need to raise the percentage of students graduating with degrees in computer science and related tech disciplines.”

Dr. Dugwon Seo, a workshop co-presenter and civil engineer who specializes in remote sensing of flood forecast, advocates for more female representation in computer sciences and technology. She started her studies in South Korea, majoring in business, before coming to America and developing her interest in the sciences.

“With programs like WiTNY, young women can build their future without delay and receive guidance and information from educators and professionals who have broad and deep knowledge,” she said during the introductory workshop.

Dozens of Queensborough students have participated in the College’s WiTNY program to date. 90% have reported early positive experiences in technology through the practical-based program. Some students have also attained internships at Etsy.com and Verizon.

“We see in these students the future of tech. They are beginning to see that too,” added. Dr. Seo.

Queensborough Community College’s Dr. Dugwon Seo, Dr. Maria Mercedes Franco, and Mr. Michael Lawrence are recipients of WiTNY grants that helped make these tech workshop possible.

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Contact:  Michael Donahue or Alice Doyle

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