Promoting women in technology
The Women in Technology Society holds the Girls Tech Talk event
Keri Irwin - March 8, 2011
Dalhousie’s Faculty of Computer Science has 300 undergraduate students. Only 25 to 30 are women—a mere 10 per cent. What’s more, the female proportion of those students registered as computer science majors declined by 50 per cent in the past nine years.
Sara Maldonado is working to change all that.
“It is a fact that women are a minority in computer science-related degrees,” explains Ms. Maldonado, a third-year Bachelor of Informatics student and president of the Women in Technology Society (WITS). “I think this is because there are a lot of myths and stereotypes of people who go into computer science or have computer science degrees.”
For young women, the situation can also be daunting. Imagine being the lone woman in an-all-male class, day after day—“It’s kind of overwhelming or intimidating to be in a degree with lots of males and you to be the only girl in a class. WITS works to promote women in technology. It supports women who are currently taking computer science and encourages young women in high school to consider IT degrees.”
As part of its outreach activities, WITS created a Girls Talk Tech event. Talk Tech runs once per semester and encourages information sharing and networking. Each talk features three panelists, one student, one alumna and one person from the corporate sector. The talks are themed around a topic that engages both students and industry. November’s Talk Tech event attracted 45 students, professors and alumni who discussed a timely topic—the work life balance.
'A different take'
For students, Talk Tech is an opportunity to meet with women in the profession, learn about life after graduation, hear about employment prospects and, at the same time connect with mentors. For professionals, the events connect them to the university, to academic research and with future employees.
Ms. Maldonado says women should be involved in computer science since women represent a growing percentage of online users and purchasers, “still to this day less than 20 per cent of women are in the IT workforce, yet if you look at the consumer numbers—how many people use IT products, such as Groupon—over 77 per cent are women.”
Mike Shepherd, the Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science agrees, “women have a different take on technology, they gravitate towards areas that have a human communication component such as software engineering. In addition, women currently make up fewer than 20 per cent of the workforce and we are graduating fewer and fewer women every year, so there will be fewer women entering the IT field. Eventually all the senior managers will become men and that will change the perspectives again. This change means that the field will be missing that very important voice if women don’t enroll in computer science degrees.”
The next Girls Talk Tech is on Tuesday, March 15, 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Grad House, Dalhousie University. The topic is flexible work options and will feature Kirstie Hawkey, Faculty of Computer Science; Sreejata Chatterjee, part-time student and entrepreneur and creator of Magic Lamp Software; and Michelle Daignault from Bell. Interested in attending? RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org