Girls Urged to Pursue Careers Involving Computer Software

Article excerpt

An organization that encourages women to consider careers in software development is off to a strong start in Pittsburgh, even though fewer female students and professionals nationwide have been showing interest in the field.

Membership in the nonprofit Girl Develop It chapter in Pittsburgh totaled 134 as of Tuesday. And 60 women have signed up so far to attend a kickoff social on Thursday at mobile commerce and applications developer Branding Brand's headquarters in the South Side.

"When I went to Pitt, I was the only one, or one of two women in most of my classes as a computer engineering student," said Julie Pagano, a software engineer at Vivisimo Inc. in Squirrel Hill and one of the chapter's two founders.

Then, "You get into the field, and there are less people higher up in the field to help mentor women," said Pagano, a 2007 Pitt graduate. "So there's the issue that a lot of women drop out. They make it through college, they make it into the field and about mid- career" many leave.

Chapter co-founder Lindsey Bieda, a developer at Branding Brand and a 2009 Pitt computer science grad, said women's representation in software development peaked in the mid-1980s when personal computers were new and their possibilities were a hot topic.

Since then, the field gradually has become more "masculinized" with a culture that can discourage women, as well as minorities, she said, although Girl Develop It and other organizations for computer professionals have been "pushing back."

The National Center for Women & Information Technology reports that women accounted for 18 percent of computer and information- science bachelor's degrees at colleges in 2010 -- a 51 percent drop from 1985.

And Girls Develop It's website says the "budding developer community" is up to 91 percent male.

The organization lists a half dozen established chapters -- New York, Columbus, Austin and Philadelphia in the United States, plus Ottawa, Canada, and Sydney.

Classes in programming, socials and "code and coffee" events are held to fan interest in the growing, and typically high-paying profession. …