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Digital Women fosters community outside the classroom for women in tech

Members+of+Digital+Women+attending+the+Grace+Hopper+Celebration+in+Orlando%2C+FL%2C+September+2023.+
Courtesy of Lydia McCleary
Members of Digital Women attending the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, FL, September 2023.

Digital Women is a student organization dedicated to supporting women in computer science, software engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, management information systems and other related fields. The group aims to provide opportunities for networking, career development and community for women in technical majors.

Lydia McCleary, a senior in software engineering and the president of Digital Women, said her involvement within the organization provided years of collaborative leadership experience and community within her field. 

“It’s a really good place to build community and meet people, especially because in your classes, there’s already so few women in the major. I feel like it brings everyone together in one place,” McCleary said.

Through her leadership experience in Digital Women, McCleary was able to attend the 2022 Grace Hopper Celebration, a flagship event highlighting the research and career interests of women in computing. McCleary also said her involvement in the organization helped her land an internship at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in Seattle, where she will work following her graduation in May. 

“[Digital Women] provides and opens so many opportunities that I didn’t even know were originally available when I first got involved,” McCleary said. 

Digital Women holds an annual Code Camp in the spring semester, where students of any major can attend a beginner-focused, 12-hour Hackathon event from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. 

Companies including John Deere, Wells Fargo, Caterpillar and Honeywell have met with Digital Women, McCleary said, leading presentations, providing technology such as virtual reality headsets and introducing mentors from the industry. 

Rachel Schnepf, a senior in computer engineering, said group workshops and company visits showed her how to apply technology in the workplace instead of solely in an academic setting. 

“Usually, with school, you have your semester project and then you’re done,” Schnepf said. “But with being able to see within a work environment how different technologies are played out, you get to see if you had years to work on one project, what would that look like?” 

Schnepf also said Digital Women gave her opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.

“I would learn something before I would see it in the classroom, so it put me ahead of the curve, which was a lot of fun, especially learning from people who were older because we had mentors,” Schnepf said. 

In a male-dominated field, Schnepf said she carried the community she found in Digital Women outside the classroom. 

“[It was] kind of nice because I had a friendly face or two in my classes, and I could take what I learned from Digital Women and the people I met there [to] the classroom, which is mostly male-dominated,” Schnepf said. 

Digital Women meets at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday in Coover 3043. Information on meetings can be found here

 

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