Feature: M-A Grad Ellora Israni’s Success in Defying Gender Stereotypes
Joining the ranks of the most successful M-A alumnae is Ellora Israni, co-founder of she++, Stanford’s first conference for women in technology.
Israni, a senior at Stanford, created the conference in 2012 with classmate Ayna Agarwal as a means of introducing women to careers in technology and computer science.
The SFGate recently reported on the rise of female computer science majors. However, there still exists an immense gender gap in the field, and women earn only about 12 percent of computer science degrees; this is the issue that she++ seeks to address.
Israni was first introduced to the field of computer science when she took an introductory course at Stanford “just to see what it was like” and found that she really enjoyed it.
“I think it teaches you a very powerful way of thinking that can be applied to any field,” she explains, “and that’s what computer science is: taking a problem worth solving, and then solving it using computing.”
Despite the common stereotype that men have the advantage in the tech industry, Israni says that she has never been treated differently on the basis of her gender: “I’ve definitely felt self-conscious in classrooms… but that may have been my own projection.”
She has worked at several large technology companies, “and getting more comfortable as a computer scientist has definitely reduced my self-consciousness.” Israni will join the Facebook New York City office this fall.
Since its conception, the she++ conference has been held twice. Both the 2012 and 2013 conferences invited industry professionals to speak to high school and college students about their experiences. Although there will not be a conference held this year, Israni assures that the company will still be working hard to “connect as many girls as possible with technology.”
She++ is working to reach out to high school students with its #include Fellowship, a program dedicated to helping high school students develop their technical skills and expose “minority groups to technology in their community,” says Israni.
All students may apply–boys and girls alike–and thirty will be selected to join she++ for a weekend at Stanford in the spring to learn about Silicon Valley and the technology industry, all for free.
Israni recommends that high school students potentially interested in technology explore computer science earlier on: “I certainly wouldn’t have considered taking computer science at M-A but I wish I had.”
She adds: “take more risks. you have a lot of options at M-A–electives to take, sports to play, clubs to join–so try them out! You never know what might surprise you.”