To provide an opportunity for high schools students interested in STEM to network with college students from Harvard University, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, and industry professionals, Harvard Women Engineers Code (WECode), the largest women-in-tech conference in the world, hosted a virtual high school conference on Saturday, October 10.
15 undergraduate women at Harvard University organized the Harvard WECode Conference, a sub-initiative of Harvard Women in Computer Science. WECode runs the largest student-organized women-in-STEM conference in the world. This year, there were more than 700 attendees, 14 of which were Andover students.
“[It was] a one-day virtual event to encourage high schoolers to explore tech, with chances to hear from college women and professionals in the field, cultivate networks with fellow students in tech, and learn what the exciting world of technology has to offer,” wrote the Harvard WECode Website.
Given Covid-19 restrictions, the conference took place through a virtual platform, Hopin. The event consisted of panels, workshops, and keynotes from various undergraduate students and professionals. Some of the notable guest speakers were Jen Easterly, Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, and Elena Glassman, Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“At WECode, we are working to promote and support women in computer science. We rise by lifting others, and together, we have the strength to break down the tech gender gap, wrote the Harvard WECode Website.
The event included a College Admissions Panel, Resume Writing Workshop, Career Paths Panel, and Networking Space. Each event was around 45-55 minutes long and provided a question and answer session at the end. According to attendee Giselle Jones-Mollod ’22, her favorite part of the conference was the high school STEM opportunities panel.
“My favorite aspect was seeing all these different young high school women and non-binary people coming together. They are so passionate about STEM and pursuing a career in STEM and technology. The chat was constantly overflowing with questions, ideas, thoughts and in constant communication with each other. It was so inspiring to see that there is a space for young women and gender minorities interested in STEM and actual ways and opportunities for them to make it happen,” said Jones-Mollod.
Saida Ibragimova ’22, another attendee, expressed that she enjoyed the résumé writing aspect. Attendees were able to send in their résumés for revisions and feedback. While there were 700 attendees, Ibragimova found that the organizers were still able to answer all the questions.
“[My favorite part was] the Career Paths panel. They were talking about women and technology and women were there talking about their experience, and they were passionate about that. Just looking at that, they achieved so many things and they encouraged people that they can do all these other things. It was very nice to see them and hear their support,” said Ibragimova.
According to Ruby Koo ’23, the conference was meaningful to her because she was able to meet people who shared her interest in the STEM field. Koo felt supported and like she belonged.
“My favorite part was how some students from different universities and colleges talked about how many opportunities there are for students like us, people who identify as female and who like science. I also liked the part when they talked about their life, in college in general, because I am still [a Lower] so I am not 100 percent sure what is gonna be like when I go to college. There [are] a lot of people with different interests,” said Koo.
Although this is the first year that Andover students have participated in the conference, Christina Li ’21, founder of Gender Inclusivity in STEM, is hopeful that students who are interested will continue to take part in the years to come. If it were not for Covid-19, the attendees would have traveled to the Harvard campus to participate.
“We had an Abbot Grant from last year for a speaker series to subsidize the in-person cost of the events, which includes buying food and reimbursing speakers for their travel time. Now that we are virtual, we do not need those funds anymore so I thought it would be a great way to repurpose those funds… to promote this equitable access,” said Li.