Rutgers Computer Science Graduate Encourages Women to Pursue Tech Careers

May 26, 2015 by No Comments

Hands typing on the laptop
Vanessa Casanas, who recently graduated from Rutgers University-Newark with a 3.9 GPA and honors, isn’t a remarkable student just because of her impressive academic achievements.

Canasas, a native of Colombia who majored in computer science, is remarkable because she succeeded in a primarily male-dominated academic field. In fact, she is the only female honors student graduating from Rutgers-Newark with a computer science degree this year.

She is very aware of this fact — in fact, she devoted her senior thesis to researching why there are so few women in the computer science field. In her senior project class, she was one of three women in a class of 130 students.

As Casanas enters the post-grad career landscape, it likely won’t be hard for her to find a job at one of the country’s 334 computer server manufacturing companies, or any other company with an IT department. As someone who speaks two languages, her career prospects are especially outstanding.

Even after she finds employment as a computer program developer, however, she said she wants to stay committed to recruiting more women into computer science, according to Rutgers Today.

“While I want to work and do stuff for me, I also want to get more females in the field,” she explained. “I think it’s needed.”

She now teaches computer science to teenage girls in Girls Who Code, an after-school club held at West Side Park Middle School and North Star Academy, two Newark charter schools.

“She literally jumped at the opportunity (to mentor young girls),” Kinna Perry, who directs the honors program at Rutgers-Newark, said. “She wants to have an impact on young ladies who are very much like her.”

Canasas’s position as one of the few female computer science graduates nationwide is indicative of a trend that has existed since the advent of computers. While 37% of female college grads received undergraduate degrees in computer science in 1984, the percentage has steadily dropped to 18%.

Over the last year, the number of females academic positions in computer science fell from 25 to 20%, Rutgers Today reported.

“Yeah, they were all men,” Canasas said of her professors.

As Canasas’s work with the Girls Who Code clubs continues, Perry said she’s hopeful that these statistics for women in computer science won’t be so dire in the future.

“Her very presence could be the catalyst to propel one or two, three or four of these young ladies to pursue this particular avenue,” said Perry. “Hopefully in another few years I’ll get another Vanessa.“

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