Women in software

crowdBy Simon Hettrick, Deputy Director.

I’ve attended a lot of events during my time in academia, but I can think of only one where women outnumbered men (one of the BSA’s Science Communication Conferences). This is not a revelation, of course. It's well known that women are poorly represented at events: as keynote speakers, on expert panels, or just as attendees in general. When I've discussed this issue in the past, I've often been asked "How many women do you expect to see?". It’s a practical question, but not one I've yet seen answered.

Should the first target for an academic event be to simply mirror the population within the event's discipline? I’ve written this blog post with this principle in mind, but also to start a discussion about whether this is indeed a helpful target.​ It occurs to me that people must have already tried this, so I'd also welcome any data on these attempts and whether they successfully improved representation.

We're looking for equality of opportunity throughout academia, but this is a distant proposition in some disciplines. If we aim for representation as a first step, we provide a target that's easy to measure and possible to achieve. If an organiser can prove success at this first target - in other words, that they are representing the gender split in their community - it would help…

Continue Reading

By Helana Santos, games programmer and developer for Modern Dream.

This article is part of our series Women in Software, in which we hear perspectives on a range of issues related to women who study and work with computers and software.

How does it feel to be a woman in the games industry, you ask? Great, I say! I love working in an industry filled with people passionate about what they do. It is always wonderful to meet game developers making innovative, creative and fun experiences, to meet people who give wings to those creations and make them known around the world, and to engage with those who play the games, provide feedback and build communities around them.

This is not to say that there aren't challenges that come with it. Some may even add "especially if you are a woman." I chose to study Computer Systems at university because I wanted to challenge myself and prove I could do something completely new. There weren't many women in my course but that never made me doubt I could do it. You can say I have always been determined.

The real challenge came when I joined the games industry over six years ago. Finding my first programmer position fresh from graduation was quite a daunting process. I still remember the feeling of stepping into a studio for the first time, sitting at my new desk and feeling both…

Continue Reading

By Kate Howland and Judith Good, Department of Informatics, University of Sussex

This article is part of our series Women in Software, in which we hear perspectives on a range of issues related to women who study and work with computers and software.

With calls for all UK children to learn computer science from a young age, we need teaching methods and tools which can help novice programmers to learn in a way which both motivates and is more accessible for them, and which builds on their existing skills and interests.

The Flip programming language teaches coding by setting a task for users to creae a narrative-based 3D role playing game. An evaluation study suggests that girls match and in some cases exceed boys’ performance with the language, which is encouraging given concerns about the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry.

Those who teach computer science at university level know that a large number of students will struggle to ever develop confidence in, let alone expertise, in programming. Recent curriculum changes have made computer science compulsory from age 5 and, as a result, it is imperative to find ways to teach coding to young people who may not have any previous experience in the area.

We developed the Flip language as…

Continue Reading

By Rane Johnson, Tech Alliance of Central Oregon Board Member and Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research.

Reproduced with permission from the Bendtech blog.

Being in the technology industry for the past 18 years I have seen lots of changes, but unfortunately one area that hasn't changed is the number of women pursuing careers in computer science and engineering. Of the approximately 5.5 million engineering and computing professionals employed in the United States, women make up just 26 percent of computing professionals and only 13 percent of engineers, according to the U.S. Census.

There have been a lot of discussions lately about the lack of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, the lack of women in the technology industry and the lack of women developing tomorrow's innovations. But if that is all young women hear about, what would motivate a girl to go into a field where she would be considered an outsider?

I feel extremely lucky to have had an amazing career in the technology industry, most recently as the principal director of research for Microsoft. I have never felt like an outsider, but this is not what our young girls hear today. I love living in Central Oregon where we have a blossoming tech startup eco-system building and passionate fellow board members on the Tech Alliance of Central Oregon working hard to support companies in technology…

Continue Reading

By Pam Cameron, Managing Director of Novoscience, and Clare Taylor, Lecturer in medical microbiology, Edinburgh Napier University.

This article is part of our series Women in Software, in which we hear perspectives on a range of issues related to women who study and work with computers and software.

The title of this blog might seem to be preposterous given that numbers of female undergraduates in many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) subjects are on the rise.  However, humour us for a few moments and read on.

We seem to be talking a lot about women these days. For example, women in technology, women in engineering, women in boardrooms, women in sport, women in computing, and so on. It’s good to talk about women, but in all honesty, we’ve been doing this for the last 50 years, and guess what? We’re still having the same conversations.

So why has there been relatively little progress in recent times?  It’s not a lack of will to change things, but our ingrained unconscious bias that has prevented the conversation from moving forward. The situation was epitomised on a popular music quiz on a national radio station just the other morning. The presenter was making small talk…

Continue Reading

By April Wright, Graduate Student, University of Texas at Austin.

This post is reproduced from the original by kind permission of the author. Following the original post, April received a number of messages of support, which can be viewed on Storify.

I went to SciPy this week. I'd never been to a programming conference before, and they featured a lot of education talks.

I wish I hadn't.

Last night, at the Software Carpentry mixer, a grand total of five men shook my husband's hand and ignored mine. My total of new people met is a dismal ten. Compare it to the Evolution meetings, which is my meeting, where I met upwards of forty new people, had a blast, and was treated by all participants like a member of the community.

I was reminded of a question my friend Steve Young asked me a while back: "What makes some women stick it out and be awesome [in tech]?" I'm going to turn the question around a bit. It's easy to be awesome. Lots of women are doing awesome things. But I could have sat in my office and worked all week, rather than attending this meeting. I could have done far more awesome alone, and I wouldn't have had my face rubbed in the fact that I'm different. I'd feel…

Continue Reading

By Devasena Inupakutika, Software Consultant.

This article is one of the articles in our series Women in Software, in which we hear perspectives on a range of issues related to women who study and work with computers and software.

“Using technology is cool, but I found out today that making it is simply awesome”  - these were the words of a 10 year old girl after she took part in the International Women's Day Robotics workshop, and followed a day of experimentation, learning and fun.

The event took place on March 7th at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, and was organised by Dr Reena Pau as part of our celebrations for International Women’s Day. The event was attended by 70 girls and young women from five schools, namely Park High (London), Testwood School (Southampton), St-Edmonds (Salisbury), ALNS (Portsmouth) and Sturnminster (Dorset).

The day started with welcome talks by Professor Michael Butler, and also Professor Dame Wendy Hall, who shared her experiences as a woman working in the computing field. Michael’s talk echoed Professor Karen Spark Jones’ maxim that “technology is too important to be left to men”.

Suitably inspired, the girls were then split into various groups for different activities. These…

Continue Reading

By Amy Guy, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh.

In this post, Amy discusses her career as a computer scientist - starting at age 8 - and the excellent BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium.

Having built my first website at age 10, taught myself to touch type at age 8, and long since had access to an array of machines thanks to my Dad's burgeoning interest in computers during my early years, I've been a woman in software to some degree for as long as I can remember.
I have been fortunate enough not to have suffered from - or perhaps naive enough not to have noticed - any sexist behaviour during this time. Through high school I loved every subject, and since computing wasn't taught at that time (the reader can go elsewhere to learn about the state of the UK ICT curriculum), web development was something I did in my free time. Perhaps it was because I went to an all-girls high school, where there was nobody to tell me what boys do and what girls do that nobody thought of it as an odd past time. I was lucky enough to be supported by superb teachers: I was awarded high marks when I made a website as part of every Design & Technology project, and my GCSE maths teacher taught me Visual Basic during lunch hours. Despite minor peer pressure to study a real subject at University - nothing to do with masculinity, rather they were unable to see its value compared to traditional subjects like medicine,…
Continue Reading

By Hannah Dee, computer science lecturer, Aberystwyth University.

When I was approached to write a guest post on women in software, my first thought was to try and pull together another post about the leaky pipeline, school science, or girls toys. But that’s not the field in which I do most of my software development. It’s what I tend to pontificate on, but not what I research. I’m a vision researcher. So, could I come up with a computer vision topic that was somehow gendered? Easy!

When doing research in computer vision or image processing, it's useful to have a test image or two. Writing programs that reduce noise, alter brightness, or enhance edges is all very well and good, but without test images, we can't know if they work. Early on in vision science, the acquisition of images was hard, and there were a handful of images everyone used. This was partly due to expediency (not everyone had access to a scanner) and partly due to comparability (we want to be able to see the results of each algorithm on the same image or set of images). Today, nearly everyone has a digital camera as part of the device in their pocket, in the 70s and 80s such devices simply didn't exist.

At the very beginning of the discipline that's now become computer vision, sometime in the early 70s - probably early 1973 - a researcher was looking for a test image. Alexander Sawchuk (now a professor at…

Continue Reading

By Phoebe Chapman, A-level student, Barton Peveril College.

My journey into the unknown field of Computer Science started at an open day held at my college, Barton Peveril. I had not come across computing before and I (naively) thought it was pretty much the same as ICT (Information and Communications Technology), which I had studied at school and wasn’t very keen on. Computing has a lot more application than ICT. In ICT, all we did was take screen shots, hear about how to use Microsoft word and PowerPoint and access files and folders on a computer (all of which everyone knew how to do anyway). In my opinion, students should start learning programming skills at an earlier age, because it is too late to wait until A-level, when most of the important decisions on subjects have already been made.

I have always had an interest in maths and a logical approach to problems, and I was told that these skills would be very useful when studying computing. The idea of putting logic into practice is what encouraged me to try the subject. As I sat in my first-year classroom I was, at first, intimidated by the large number of guys who had been programming for years, and seemed to know a great amount about programming. This turned out not to be a problem, because the lessons were about getting everyone up to a certain standard, and I did not feel left behind. The lessons were interesting: we created programs to carry out all sorts of different functions. It quite quickly became my most enjoyable subject, despite my initial doubts. You really can make a program…

Continue Reading
Subscribe to Women in software