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With iGit, Roan ’19 Morgan Munsey works to change perceptions of women in technology

September 30, 2016

Morgan-Munsey-by-Heath-OwensiGit: A Student’s Vision to Change Perception of Women in Tech

Seven years ago, a young girl sat in during a class at ETSU during her mother’s Master’s program when she couldn’t find a babysitter.

“My mom was taking a class in Microsoft Office, and that day they were teaching PowerPoint,” said Morgan Munsey, that little girl seven years later. “That was the day I realized how much fun it was to use a computer to create something, and haven’t stopped since.”

Since her days of being the six-year-old in her mom’s classroom, Munsey has fostered a passion for technology.

This began at ETSU Department of Computing’s Niswonger-sponsored Code Camp, a weeklong summer camp for high school students interested in coding.

“I took every computing class in high school that I could, but there weren’t many because I attended a county school. My yearbook teacher recommended the ETSU Code Camp, I went, and that is when I fell in love with technology and coding.”

She said that her experience at code camp had a tremendous impact on her collegiate and career goals.

“When it came time to apply or college, I knew ETSU was the only place for me. Not only did they have the No. 1 computing department in Tennessee, but the same code camp instructors would become my professors, advisors and role models.”

Munsey is now a sophomore ETSU student with a major in computing and a concentration in information technology. She is also a Roan Scholar, SGA Senator, POLO Leader and member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, but above all that is her vision: to challenge and change the stereotypes that confront women in technology.

Munsey hopes to cultivate this vision on ETSU’s campus with her iGit initiative, Involving Girls in Technology.

It is no mystery that computing and technology is a male-dominated field, but Munsey says that the stereotyping and gender-norms may in fact deter many women away from pursuing careers in this field when they already had the interest.

“For the first two weeks of every semester, I have to justify myself,” said Munsey. “In the elevator, I am often asked why I am going to the computer science floor and not the nursing floor which is housed in the same building. The best part is the follow-up: ‘Oh! Well you don’t have the computer science neckbeard’, ‘You don’t look like you want to spend your time in a basement coding.’”

Munsey says while there is humor and often friendliness in these situations, sometimes she encounters a more challenging interaction.

“When I went to go buy my textbooks for upper-level computing courses the worker assumed I was just in CSCI 1100 and didn’t need the books for my actual classes,” she said. “I am also often the only girl in my classes, and the PC science and maintenance classroom doesn’t even have a women’s restroom on the floor.”

Munsey says it is time for a change. She often finds herself wondering why there aren’t near as many women with the same passion for tech as her, and believes the answer can be found in social constructs and gender normative concepts.

These experiences were the framework for iGit, which will launch as an official student organization by next spring. She has faculty, departmental and student support for the program, each of which she says recognize the lack of females involved in computing or tech.

Munsey says that iGit’s first venture will be to visit local schools to recruit young girls into the summer code camp.

“iGit’s goal is to develop an interest in technology with younger girls, because this will bring more girls into the department and onto campus,” she said. “In order to change the perceptions of women in this field, we have to start with the up-and-coming generation.”

After visiting schools and planting seeds in young girls’ minds just like her six-year-old self, she hopes to use iGit as a platform to raise awareness of the misrepresentation of females in technology, specifically at ETSU and in the surrounding area.

Munsey sees three specific opportunities where she can work to educate on stereotypes about women in technology: schools, homes and society.

“Steve Jobs said that ‘everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.’ If more students learn how to code I believe we would see performance increases,” Munsey said.

“In homes, a simple change could be that both parents handle technology questions, instead of moms answering with ‘Go ask dad?’ when their child asks a tech-related question.”

“None of these changes are very hard but will make a major impact on the number of women in technology. You never know, one of the girls that attend code camp this summer could be the next Jobs or Zuckerburg.”

 

This story, written by ETSU student Heath Owens, originally appeared in the East Tennessean, ETSU’s student newspaper, on September 23, 2016.  Photo credit: Heath Owens.