Written by Sarah Olender. Adapted with permission from Northeastern Universities Khoury College of Computer Science.
On February 16, 2023, Rewriting the Code (RTC) announced that we have selected Khoury College as our first official collegiate partner. The announcement came during a fireside-style chat between Khoury College Dean Elizabeth Mynatt and Rewriting the Code founder Sue Harnett, an event attended by existing RTC and Khoury community members. The pair discussed the partnership’s future and its goal of creating a better future for women in computer science.
RTC is an international nonprofit of over 17,000 undergraduates, graduates, and young professionals worldwide striving to create a more inclusive community within tech and computer science. Our organization helps women in computer science to network with each other and employers and provides students and early-career tech professionals with mentorship and networking opportunities.
While spending her college career studying economics and healthcare administration and earning accolades as one of the top scorers in Duke women’s basketball history, Harnett recognized a problem in computer science — the large discrepancy in the number of men and women working in the field. Harnett founded RTC seven years ago using her leadership and organizational skills, hoping to encourage more women to enter the field.
RTC and Northeastern strive to empower all women in tech by building trusted communities and networks designed for female CS students and those early in their careers. Mynatt recalled many times when she was the only woman in a computer science class, but over time, she said, things began to change. Early in her career at Georgia Tech, Mynatt helped to create a new Ph.D. program in human-centered computing. After the program was up and running, she began to see a difference in the people joining and their contributions; the program enabled greater diversity in students and research topics.
“Not only did we have more women in the building, but they asked different questions, they had different research goals, they brought different agendas with them for what impact they wanted to make in the world,” Mynatt said. By having more women in the program, more perspectives entered the classrooms, and learning was enriched.
During her time at Khoury College, Mynatt has spotlighted and furthered the college’s gender diversity goals. At the RTC event, she noted that the college’s most recent fall undergraduate class is 47 percent female and that the Align master’s program is 54 percent women, both well ahead of the field’s averages. The College strives to keep those numbers high to bring more equity to the profession and more diverse perspectives into Khoury classrooms.
After Mynatt and Harnett introduced the partnership and discussed their experiences, career goals, and journeys, fifth-year computer science and economics major Amina Haida came forward to talk about how impactful Rewriting the Code was throughout her time at Khoury College. Haida joined RTC five years ago as a freshman, searching for a community and a place to network with other women. RTC became a great place for her to do this, and she’s been a part of the organization for the last few years. When she was on co-op in New York City, she even got to attend an RTC event and network with women and companies from other regions.
Haida shared that she struggled with impostor syndrome while in her computer science classes. She credits her regained confidence to organizations like RTC, which helped her see that other people who looked like her also felt the same way.
The event concluded with an opportunity for the community members to ask Mynatt and Harnett questions. With about 30 students of all ages and from both graduate and undergraduate programs in attendance, nearly every student participated. Their questions — largely about how to join RTC and network through the organization — showed the community’s excitement for the new partnership and the work to come.