The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields are often devoid of color. The creators of Google: white and male. The creator of Facebook: white and male. The creators of Yahoo: one white male, one Asian-American male. Women of color in STEM are often obscured, unless they’re being terminated for addressing the sexism of fellow conference attendees.
Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found blatant sexism in STEM, with less than 20 percent of college-educated women pursuing careers in computer science. Despite the odds, Martha Chumo, a 19-year-old computer programmer from Nairobi, Kenya, is determined to excel in software development. She fell into programming during a summer internship and is smitten with computer science.
“During my internship last summer I got access to a computer on a daily basis. It was pretty much the first time I had a computer all to myself. I started googling how the Internet and computers work,” she writes.
“Soon, learning code became my obsession. In June 2012, I took the little I had saved and bought a computer, installed Ubuntu and quit my internship.
I spent hours practicing at the Nairobi iHub. Online resources combined with the community helped me learn fast and in July I landed a job as a developer with a local Ruby on Rails boutique.
Programming opened an unknown world to me. I was planning on going to medical school, like most top-students in Kenya do. Now I’m taking a year off to explore software development. I’m especially excited about the world of open source software.”
The self-taught programmer has been accepted into Hacker School, a New York-based institute that teaches the tricks of the trade to up-and-coming programmers. It is a competitive program, but Chumo had the chops and earned admission.
Now she needs the funds to attend. Chumo has launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund her trip to Hacker School. She hopes to raise $4,200 to cover the costs of a visa, a round-trip airline ticket and a new laptop.
She realizes the obstacles she’ll endure as a woman of color in the STEM world, noting the “big gender imbalance in the field of software development” on her funding page, but Chumo hopes to organize an army of support. Chumo hopes to teach computer programming to other Kenyan women. She and her friends are planning courses to teach upon her return to Kenya. Chumo is also an innovator; she aspires to create her own computer programming language.
Chumo has raised more than $5,300, but there are 15 days left in the campaign.