Documentary addressing tech gender gap debuts in the Bay Area (Video)

Documentary addressing tech gender gap debuts in the Bay Area (Video)

Movements like #ILookLikeAnEngineer and the #LikeAGirl campaign have highlighted the gender gap in science, technology and engineering careers in the U.S. and a new documentary, premiering in the Bay Area this week, is highlighting the issue further.

“CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” 79-minute documentary that explores the lack of American female and minority software engineers, makes its way to the Mill Valley Film Festival on Friday, Oct. 9.

The film’s director and producer, Robin Hauser Reynolds, is from Marin County and decided to pursue making a movie when her daughter began to question her ability to succeed in her computer science classes.
“She had the perception that everyone else knew so much more than she did,” Hauser Reynolds said. “At the same time, newspapers were coming to our doors saying ‘if you want to get a job you should really know something about computer science.’ I just couldn’t understand what was going on; where the supply and demand problem was coming from.”

So in January 2014, Hauser Reynolds began filming a movie to expose the issue and provide some context on how things can change. The film eventually debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, but has also been shown at companies like Ericsson, Expedia Inc., Capital One Financial Corporation and to groups of girls.
“I would like to inspire young girls and people of color and women wanting a career change to consider coding as a viable option for them,” she said. “I would like to inspire Hollywood to get some women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in starring roles. I would really like to inspire parents to take a second look at our own biases.”
In the film, she focuses on the women and people of color within the technology sector who are working to increase their numbers in the field and confronting the false truisms, educational obstacles and sexism that discourages many from pursuing the plethora of jobs in the industry.

One example of a tech company moving toward more diversity that is featured in the film is Etsy Inc., which has worked to grow the number of female engineers it employed by 500 percent in just a year.

Last year, she connected with GoDaddy Inc. chief executive officer Blake Irving, who has been a driver behind the company’s shift in branding and move away from sexist advertising. With Irving at the helm, the company has begun unconscious-bias training through the Clayman Institute and is working on trying to make the company more diverse. Irving jumped at the opportunity to become an executive producer on the film.
“Helping the ‘CODE’ film project is one of the many investments we are making toward improving the gender balance throughout computer science and technology,” Irving said in an email. “Diversity matters because it drives innovation, richer thinking and more real-world solutions. As an industry, we all need to do better. We know about half the people using our technology are women – doesn’t it make sense for more women to contribute to the development of tech products?”
GoDaddy screened the film at its Scottsdale, Arizona, headquarters and other offices in late July. GoDaddy opened its first Bay Area-office in 2013 with 40 employees in Sunnyvale.
So what’s the reception been like?

“Everyone has different takeaways,” Hauser Reynolds said. “There are always very active discussions after. There often will have men in there who feel a little bit exposed, but will suddenly have a different perspective on how their behavior has affected minority coworkers and they say they want to know what they can do to help.”
A lot of young girls who see the film come away inspired and wanting to start taking Khan Academy coding classes right away, she said.
“We’re trying to show young women who are athletic and beautiful who are engineers,” she said.
Meanwhile, female engineers who see the movie say they feel like it’s the first time their voices have been heard, while teachers want to know how they can change the classroom environment, she said.
Hauser Reynolds’ daughter has since dropped her computer science studies and is now an art history major. Her daughter is very interested in graphic design as well and the programming classes definitely helped her, Hauser Reynolds says.
The film will show at 6 p.m. Friday at the festival. There will be a panel discussion after the screening on Oct. 17.
Check out the trailer here.