Filmmaker Robin Reynolds '86 Debugs Tech's Gender Gap

Robin Hauser Reynolds ’86 is director and producer of CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. The documentary exposes the dearth of American female and minority software engineers and explores the reasons for this gender gap and digital divide.

Tech jobs are growing three times faster than our colleges are producing computer science graduates. By 2020, there will be one million unfilled software engineering jobs in the USA. Through interviews, animation and reference to flashpoints in popular culture, CODE examines the reasons why more girls and people of color are not seeking out opportunities in computer science and explores how cultural mindsets, stereotypes, educational hurdles, and sexism all play roles in this national crisis.

The documentary brings together expert voices from the worlds of tech, psychology, science, and education with personal stories of women who are engaged in the fight to challenge complacency in the tech industry and have their voices heard. CODE aims to inspire change in mindsets, in the educational system, in startup culture and in the way women see themselves in the field of coding.

The documentary, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca film festival, will celebrate the one-year anniversary of its world premiere with a screening and panel discussion at the filmmakers’ alma mater, UC Berkeley. Reynolds will return to campus alongside Laura Gomez ‘01, Co-Founder and CEO of Aptica, Mai Huong Le ELPP ’14, senior engineering leader at Yahoo, and Michele Titolo, lead software engineer at Capital One, for a screening and panel discussion on the real world experiences of women at the top of their fields in entrepreneurship and technology.

In a statement prepared for the Tribeca Film Festival, Hauser shared her inspiration for the film:

Early one morning in the spring of 2013, my daughter called home from college announcing she intended to drop her computer science major. “I’m really bad at it,” she says. “I’m the worst in the class; I don’t fit in.” Her confidence was shaken by being one of just two women in a class of 25, and by not having the resources to support her. After taking 3 computer science classes, she drops the CS major. Turns out she was earning a B.

That same spring, weekly headlines in national newspapers declared the importance of attaining some level of computer science knowledge in college. Want a job out of college? Study computer science. A White House study stated that by 2020 there would be 1 million unfilled computer science jobs in the USA. What is going on here? With tech jobs plentiful and lucrative, why is the supply / demand ratio so skewed? Well, the tech industry is missing half the population.

Together with UC Berkeley classmate and co-producer Staci Hartman ‘86, I set out to debug the reasons behind the gender gap and digital divide. For the most part, Silicon Valley availed itself to our inquisition, and with each interview – whether at Yelp, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest, Strava, Pandora, GitHub or Pivotal – we learned that the underlying currents which dissuaded women and people of color from pursuing coding jobs and resulted in the dearth of minorities in tech, were systemic, pervasive, and complex. Mindsets, stereotypes, clogs in the educational pipeline, startup culture, lack of role models and sexism all play important roles in this mounting gender, ethnicity and economic issue.

UC Berkeley’s Provost, Claude Steele, a leader in the field of social psychology, says it takes about a generation to change a stereotype. As director of CODE, I hope to inspire our audience to begin that change. Change in the way our school system values computer science education; change in the way we think of a programmer; change in the way women and people of color view themselves in the tech field.

I am honored to have directed CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. I am grateful to the many tech companies who opened their doors to me and the CODE crew, and to the inspiring women and men in tech who availed themselves to our cameras and questions. I am forever changed by meeting women in tech who have overcome myriad obstacles in order to pursue their passion for coding. I am proud to be able to share some of these stories with the world, and I remain hopeful that through CODE documentary I will encourage more people in tech to join the movement to make the industry more inclusive and thus more efficient for all.

Want to see the documentary for yourself? Join us on Tuesday, April 19th at 4:00pm in Sibley Auditorium for the Berkeley debut film screening, panel discussion, and reception with the filmmakers and panelists. More information at scet.berkeley.edu/2016-spring-newton-series/. Learn more about the CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap at http://www.codedoc.co/.