In 1984, I started taking Computer Science courses at Oberlin college. My sophomore year, they created an actual CS major and I was the 5th student to sign up for it. At the time, the program was far from diverse. It was a shame, but I think that we all were the worse for systematic sexism in our introductions to computers. It was even more of a shame because I think we tried to be supportive to the women who were taking CS courses. Most of us were in the program because of the joy we got from writing code and seeing it work. Further, we liked sharing that joy with others. This was the original hacker culture: figuring out how to get a computer to do something unique. One of the early Apple II manuals had a glossary in it with a recursive definition:
hacker – n. someone who writes a program for the purpose of getting another hacker to say, “how the hell did you get the computer to do that?”
Last year, I started reading Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I had seen cultural references to it and thought I would give it a shot. I like it for several reasons, but I think what I like the most is that Doreen Green (aka Squirrel Girl) is an excellent role model. She is self-assured. She has an extremely normal build (except for, you know, the tail), as do her friends. She wears sensible shoes and a very functional outfit for fighting crime. She has good, peer relationships that are bidirectionally valued. She kicks butt. She has her own twitter account. Finally, she studies Computer Science.
I love this. I love that in the midst of a fight with Doctor Octopus, she is speaking in code. And then she goes on to explain it:
Look at the joy on her face! I know that feeling well. Later on, she goes on to explain how to count in binary with your fingers:
Read Squirrel Girl. Read it with your daughter(s). Help contribute to a field that desperately needs more gender balance. Read it with your son(s) to normalize strong capable women.