S. Somasegar is the corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft. Learn more about Somasegar.
A couple of months ago, Bill Gates joined Rick Rashid, senior Vice President, Microsoft Research and Maria Klawe, dean of engineering and applied science, Princeton University on stage at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit. Reading through the transcript of their session, it seemed they spoke about a variety of topics including a topic dear to my heart – what more can we do to dramatically increase the number of women in computer science.
Maria Klawe presented some sobering facts - computer science is the only field in science and engineering where participation of women has gone down over the last 25 years. Bill recommended that one of the ways to alleviate this problem is to have more women currently in computer science be more visible. Maria thought more was needed and also highlighted that the problem was equally bad around the world, with numbers being slightly better in Ireland and Turkey. Ireland has a lot of schools that are exclusively for females with data that it keeps more girls in math and science areas. Turkey assigns students to programs based on their grades so girls don’t have much of a choice. Girls were being placed into math and science regardless of choice. Germany was down to 9% and elite schools in China down to 10-15%.
Obviously this may prompt many of you to ask – “So what is Microsoft doing about this problem”? Click here to read more about Microsoft’s efforts to make it a great place to work for women. But one of our jewels in an internal group called Hoppers. Hoppers is one of the most successful diversity groups at Microsoft and is a first of its kind within the tech industry. Hoppers describes itself as "An empowerment tool for female employees at Microsoft for networking, participating in mentor programs, sharing job concerns and experiences, learning how to balance work and family, and helping to advance their careers.". Their goal is to recruit, retain and promote women with Microsoft. Therese Stowell, one of my colleagues from the NT days and the founder of Hoppers recalls that in 1990, she would often be the only woman at a major technology conference with 200 people in the room. Clealry, we have come quite a ways from then.
As you know, I got a chance to interact with Arfa recently and I was truly amazed at her passion for technology and computer science. I am assuming that she serves as a role model and a source of inspiration for the next generation of females.
I have always been proud to see Microsoft in the list ‘100 Best Companies for Working Mothers’ by Working Mother magazine.