The Future [Of Computer Science] Is Female — A DigiGirlz Story

When 17-year-old Ameena Sajjad walked into Microsoft New England for DigiGirlz Day 2016, she was all set to be a dentist. She had already received a 75% paid tuition scholarship at a major college in Boston to do so, in fact.

When she walked out, she wanted to major in computer science. Now, she’s in a 2-year computer science program at Bunker Hill Community College, and is currently interning at Microsoft New England. She wants to pursue a career in software development.

So what happened at DigiGirlz that took her from wanting to be a dentist to working at Microsoft in one year?

“I came to know about wonderful innovations that were developed at the Microsoft Garage, the speakers at the event gave information about advances in technology, 3D printing, and more,” Ameena told MSNE. “They also highlighted the lack of interest among women in the field of computer science and how women can contribute to the field. I was fascinated by the entire office setup at Microsoft, the work culture, and the teamwork among the groups who organized the event.”

The stats about women in computer science are very real. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women currently hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. And, globally, only 16 percent of female students graduate from STEM subjects, according to the World Economic Forum. We at Microsoft believe that this has to change.

DigiGirlz is one of our free #YouthSpark programs for middle and high school girls that allows them to immerse themselves in the world of technology for one day, in hopes that we can inspire the next generations of female Computer Scientists. They hear first-hand from women with careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops during the day-long event.

This year, Ameena is leading her own workshop at DigiGirlz in Burlington, where she’ll show them the BBC micro:bit, a tool she helped develop at her internship. She’ll show the DigiGirlz how to use the micro:bit to code all sorts of cool creations, from robots to musical instruments.

“I want to make them more curious and give them more technology — show them what it’s like,” Ameena said.

She’ll never forget that drive home from DigiGirlz, and how nervous she felt to tell her parents she wanted to turn down a huge scholarship to be a computer science major.

“Eventually after coming home [from DigiGirlz], I gathered all the courage I had and told my parents that I wanted to change majors to computer science. My parents were quiet at first, but then started to discuss possible options,” she explained. “This is my second semester and I am going strong with each day that passes. I am loving my C++ and Java classes. I don’t know if it is my luck or just a coincidence that I was selected for an internship position at Microsoft New England.”

“I will always be thankful to DigiGirlz, who arranged the Microsoft visit and gave me the option to explore a computer science major.”

We’re excited to welcome more middle and high school girls to DigiGirlz at Microsoft New England this year. Our first day is in Rhode Island at the campus of the New England Institute of Technology on Friday, March 17, and our second session is in Burlington, MA at our new Sales & Technology Center on Friday, April 28.

There will also be free DigiGirlz events at all of our retail store locations throughout New England. Find a free event near you.

Head here to learn more about Microsoft YouthSpark’s DigiGirlz programs.

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