What Does a Computer Scientist Look Like?

Meredith Hunter ’20 has been interested in computer science for most of her life. As she progressed through a variety of computer science classes during her years at Bishop’s, she ultimately became the sole female in the class. Her experience inspired the documentary she produced for her Girl Scout Gold Award, Pink Collar Project: Women in Computer Science.
What inspired you to do this project?
I started taking computer science classes in seventh grade at Bishop’s, and I discovered that I loved programming. In all of my classes I was one of only two girls, but in my tenth-grade computer science class, I found myself completely alone in a class full of boys. I had always thought it was strange how disproportionate my classes were, so I decided to research the history of women in computer science and present my findings to my classes. What I found was astonishing. Women had played a major role in computer science’s formative years. In fact, the first computer programmers were a group of women, and programming was even considered a women’s job for many years. This helped me feel like I belonged in computer science at a time when I felt very isolated from and even ignored by my male classmates. The summer before tenth grade, I volunteered at Technology Goddesses, a Girl Scout summer camp which teaches elementary-aged girl scouts about technology. There, I found a community of women who shared the same interest in technology as I did.
When I had to choose the focus for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I knew I wanted to share the history of women in computer science. I had found it fascinating and comforting, and I wanted to reassure other girls that they belonged in computer science as much as anyone else. I then decided I wanted to create a documentary to share this story because I could reach a wide audience. When I started the project, I spoke to many women currently in the field. They gave me new insight on my own experience, made me feel like I was part of a community, and made me feel like I had a right to be in computer science just as much as anyone else. The women featured in my documentary are inspirations to me, and the desire to share their stories gave me the energy to complete this project.
Who helped you?
Michelle Fan ’20 created the title sequence, and she helped keep me accountable during the project. My mother encouraged and pushed me to get the project done. She helped keep me on track and focus my ideas; without her, I would not have been able to complete this project. I also am incredibly thankful to the women in the documentary who gave me a lot of their time, and who inspired me.
What’s the most important take-away for viewers?
I want viewers to be surprised and amazed by the contributions of women in the field of computer science. I also want my documentary to break some of the stereotypes people have about computer science, whether it’s that computer science is for men or that computer science is only programming. I started this documentary trying to prove that women are just as capable as programmers as men are, but in the end, I think I also demonstrated that a lot of the conceptions we have about what a computer scientist looks like are not true. If any of the boys from my tenth-grade computer science class watch this documentary, I would want them to reflect back and try to understand what my experience was like being the only girl, and if they are ever in a class with a disproportionately low number of women, that they purposefully reach out to them.
Describe the Girl Scout Gold Award, and what it means to you.
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the biggest achievement you can get in Girl Scouts. A girl chooses an issue that is really meaningful to them, and they come up with some way of addressing it in their project. The project is independent, and it takes at least eighty hours to complete (although I have already spent one hundred hours and I’m not quite finished). My Gold Award experience so far has been incredible. Not only have reflected on my own computer science experiences and understand them in new ways, but I’ve also learned a ton about myself and how I work best. It has been incredibly meaningful to share the documentary and hear how surprised people are that women played such a big role in computer science. I learned how to make an impact on an issue I care about.
What's next for you?
I will be attending Vanderbilt University as an engineering freshman. I am currently deciding between mechanical and electrical engineering. Of course, I have always found computer science fascinating, and I plan on taking some computer science courses. I’m also super excited about joining the Society of Women Engineers.

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The Bishop’s School is an independent, coeducational college-preparatory day school for students in grades six through twelve who live throughout San Diego County. Founded in 1909, the School is affiliated with the Episcopal church.