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Ohio State ACM-W celebrates 20 years of empowering women in tech


As a woman pursuing a technology-centric degree, Areebah Jamal felt very alone when she first came to Ohio State to study computer science and engineering.

It’s a sentiment frequently shared by female undergraduate students majoring in computer science and engineering (CSE), computer and information science (CIS), and data analytics, where 19.3% of the enrolled students are women.

ACM-W Executive Board pose together during a company networking event.
Areebah Jamal (front row, center) with fellow ACM-W Executive Board members during an industry networking event.

Jamal’s feeling of isolation began to change once she discovered the Association of Computing Machinery Women’s Chapter (ACM-W) at Ohio State, a student organization that strives to empower women in computing.

After attending a company networking session hosted by the chapter and other social events, Jamal quickly found her university community. She currently serves as ACM-W chapter president after an initial stint on the executive board as social and workshop coordinator.

“ACM-W’s goal is to foster and create a community to remind woman studying technology-focused majors that they're not alone,” Jamal explained. “It's really nice to have a mentor, people to ask questions about life, but also about the interview process, about careers, even classes. I ended up making really good friends with almost everyone that I interacted with at ACM-W. Now in classes I see people that I know and it makes it so much easier for me to feel comfortable as a student, but also to have someone to rely on if I need help.”

ACM-W at Ohio State works to engage students in activities that improve the working and learning environments for women in technology through mentoring programs, educational and social events, volunteering, and outreach.

Since it was chartered at the university 20 years ago, ACM-W has grown from 10 women undergraduates to 30 active members and more than 100 who attend events throughout the year. Membership is open to all undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of their major or gender.

“We have members from a lot of different majors beyond CSE/CIS, such as data analytics, electrical and computer engineering, industrial and systems engineering and more. For our members, it's more about the interest in technology part rather than what they’re majoring in,” Jamal said. “Also, most of our events are not technology focused. We host lots of socials and workshops where it doesn't really matter what major or gender you are, just come and have fun.”

While many members say the support network is one of the biggest benefits they receive from their ACM-W involvement, career and job search advice is a close second.

“I felt very lost coming in. I didn't know what an internship was or anything about them. By my sophomore year, I knew a little bit more, but I didn’t know how to do a tech interview,” said ACM-W Vice President Liz Shneyderman, a computer and information science and economics major. “I got a lot of resources through ACM-W on how, when and where to navigate that whole space that made me a lot more confident about it and also helped me get internships.”

ACM-W members stand with giant GHC letters during the Grace Hopper Conference
ACM-W members attend the 2022 Grace Hopper Celebration.

Each year the chapter takes members to the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women and non-binary technologists, and the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing (OCWiC). ACM-W at Ohio State is currently fundraising to ensure interested members can attend regardless of financial ability.

“It is very empowering to be in a room full of 30,000 women in tech,” Jamal said. “So we’re really excited for that.”

Increasing the next generation’s awareness of technology and computing is another important goal of ACM-W at Ohio State. The chapter hosts annual outreach events such as Code I/O, a free computer science workshop that teaches 10- to 15-year-olds Scratch, HTML/CSS and Python programming skills with the help of college mentors.

“Because a career in technology is so male dominated, it can be intimidating. Often the general curriculum does not involve exposure to technology and coding,” Jamal said. “Our hope with Code I/O and events like it is to be able to reach girls who do not have access to opportunities like these otherwise and provide them with a space to engage with technology and spark a passion for computer science.”

The chapter has received numerous awards in recognition of their impact, including the 2023 Outstanding Overall Student Organization Award and four others from the Ohio State Office of Student Life. They were also named the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Student Organization in 2021 and 2022.

“It's really nice to be honored for the work we do,” Jamal said. “As an executive board, we put in a lot of hard work and our time throughout the year.”

Interested students can visit the ACM-W at Ohio State website to learn more and sign up for their e-mail list.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,