Women under-represented

Professor says women are discouraged from Computing degrees

Libby Nicol and Christina Clare host a seven-hour program dedicated to International Women’s Day.
Libby Nicol and Christina Clare host a seven-hour program dedicated to International Women’s Day.

As part the International Women’s Day, Queen’s School of Computing advocated for female participation in the computer sciences.

International Women’s Day was celebrated around the globe yesterday and has been celebrated for over 100 years.

Wendy Powley, a professor in the School of Computing, organized a panel discussion in the JDUC on Thursday.

“Eleven per cent of undergrads enrolled in our program are females,” she said. “It’s just wrong that girls are missing out. There is no reason why they aren’t pursuing studies in this area.”

The School of Computing had 50 per cent female enrolment in the 1980s.

Powley said the event’s aim was to promote female enrolment in the computing faculty and encourage women to pursue research in the field.

Part of the reason women choose not to pursue computer sciences in university is because of a deep-rooted social understanding that the program is male-oriented, Powley said.

“From an early age boys tend to get involved in gaming, so they are naturally drawn to computers and want to see what they can contribute to computers,” she said.

“Girls feel excluded and choose not to go down that path.”

The event featured two sessions, one on the importance of diversity in the field and the other on professional networking. A panel talk was held afterward and discussed the benefits of academic versus industrial careers in computer science.

Powley is the founder of Women in the School of Computing (WISC) — an informal social and community outreach group that seeks to encourage female interest in the computer sciences.

One of WISC’s community outreach goals is to visit local elementary schools and engage young girls in lego-robotics.

“Once they open their minds to computers it’s really easy to reel them in,” she said.

“The opportunities are endless and the girls are missing out just because they don’t know what it’s about.”

Despite organizing the event as part of International Women’s Day, Powley said it wasn’t meant to be exclusive to women.

“I don’t want people to choose not to get involved because they think it’s a bunch of radical feminists organizing an event. When I saw the numbers dropping I realized that there is a problem that needs to be addressed by everyone.”

Radio station helps campus celebrate

CFRC also participated in International Women’s Day with programming dedicated to women’s issues.

The station featured interviews with local female advocacy groups, discussions and music from a variety of female artists.

CFRC volunteer Christina Clare said the day of programming was important for confronting gender stereotypes.

“The music industry still predominantly features white men specifically so to play music by women is really important,” Clare said.

Clare said the seven-hour radio program is important in reminding people to challenge their perceptions of women’s roles in society today.

“Every day we should be looking at and challenging ourselves and being more critical of these issues, but I think having one day specifically is really good because it reminds everyone that’s what we should do on a regular basis,” Clare said.

Clare became involved in the project after reflecting on gender identity.

“I witnessed a lot of women’s feminist struggles to fight for more power in their lives and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how my own gender identity is read,” Clare said. “I just wanted to [help] provide a grounding for discussion on these issues.”

— Vincent Matak

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