Featured Alumni Stories

Cracking the CODE: Why Women Aren't Equally Represented in the Tech World

Robin Hauser Reynolds' path to making a film about women and the tech world wasn't a simple "if-then" logic equation like those used by the programmers in her new film. Hauser Reynolds credits her experience at SYA with her ability to create her films from a position of objectivity. She finds her style is one of discovery, of looking for different ways of finding the truth. "I believe you need to have that diversity of thought and opinion in order to tell a story that is relatable to a varied audience," she says. And it was SYA that jumpstarted her interest in, and familiarity with, different cultures. Hauser Reynolds spent considerable time living in Europe; she returned to France during her sophomore year of college, lived in Luxembourg for several years early in her career, and then moved her family to Italy for a year when her children were very young.

After earning an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, Hauser Reynolds worked in international business moving to Luxembourg as a stockbroker. Upon her return to the U.S., she married, had children and soon realized that the early hours of a stockbroker didn't support her fulfilling role as a new mom. Instead, she developed her interest in photography, and turned that into a profession. All the while, she harbored a desire to make a film, without knowing when an opportunity would present itself. Six years ago it did, when her daughter's running coach was diagnosed with ALS. Hauser Reynolds directed the 2013 documentary, Running for Jim. After this, Hauser Reynolds realized that her calling was cause-based filmmaking and subsequently began work onCODE: Debugging the Gender Gap.

CODE's focus is on the lack of diversity that exists in the tech industry, where women are underrepresented as software engineers and programmers. "To me it's about equal opportunity," Hauser Reynolds says, and determining, "why does the word feminism have such a negative connotation still?" Rather than assert that men and women are not different from one another, the film highlights the importance of diversity in the tech industry, showing that when men and women work together, the end result is so much better. A perfect example is the retooling of automobile airbags, which injured a disproportionate number of women, as they were designed with the average American male in mind. Men were the only ones in the room working on them, which was a contributing factor for the need to change the ergonomic design of the product.

Hauser Reynolds is currently touring the country with CODE, and is somewhat surprised to do so with a film that has struck a nerve with audiences beyond Silicon Valley and NYC. She is screening the film at corporate companies from Comcast to MasterCard, and speaking on panels. She has screened the film in Norway, Germany, New Zealand, India and South Korea, and has just sold the rights to BBC Persia, which will air the film in Iran. Although the reasons why women aren't equally represented in the tech world are different among countries, Hauser Reynolds has found that audiences are using the film as a catalyst for opening up the discussion. And despite the differences, across cultures there is a commonality in the way that women are treated in the workforce.

The response to the film that Hauser Reynolds has found the most rewarding is from men in the audience who approach her after a screening and say, "I had no idea these things were going on," or tell her later on, "I saw your film and the very next day I was in a meeting and noticed that the women's voices weren't being heard as much." Depending on who is sitting in the audience, Hauser Reynolds says, your takeaway from the film will be different.

CODE also highlights that change can happen, featuring an example from Harvey Mudd College, whose number of women in computer science classes increased from 10 percent to 48 percent in eight years, to Etsy, a peer-to-peer e-commerce website, where the number of women engineers rose from three percent to 30 percent in three years, both from a concerted effort to get more women in the door and create an environment to retain them.

"There's no doubt in my mind that my year in France opened my eyes to the importance of understanding and appreciating different cultures," Hauser Reynolds says. "And in spite of those differences, SYA taught me is that there also exist similarities. Those differences are there and valid and need to be respected, but at the core we're all human. If you can dig in and find that personal connection wherever you are in the world, especially if you're a documentarian, then that is a measure of true success."

For more information about the film, or to request a screening at your local theater, click here.