By Eilidh Southren
The 10th annual Ada Lovelace Colloquium, an IT conference for women, was hosted this year in Aberystwyth University. The event hosted over 100 female computing students from all over the UK. We had to present a topic of our interest in the form of a poster. My entry, ‘Digital Designers’, was an exploration into machines that create works of art.
The event is organised by Dr Hannah Dee, who has unparalleled enthusiasm for both her academic field and the event she hosts.
Meeting students from other universities is something I really enjoy. It’s great to discuss the variations of interests and see what everyone’s working on. I got a lot of ideas for our Computing Society event – the 24-hour Hackathon – which took place on the 15th.
The colloquium featured keynote speeches from Dr Sue Black, OBE, who founded BSCWomen and a number of tech startups. She was also instrumental in saving Bletchley park, the site of the World War II codebreakers and the Enigma machine. Her story of leaving school with no maths GSCE, to finishing her PhD with 3 children in tow, was inspiring.
Carrie Anne Philbin spoke about her role as the director of education at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, as well as being the creator of the popular youTube series Crash Course Computer Science and the Geek Gurl Diaries.
Milka Horozova, a recently hired Google employee, spoke about her attendance of the previous two Lovelace Colloquiums and how it led to Google sending her an interview offer. From student to presenter in 2 years was very motivating! She had lots of useful advice on their recruitment process and how to pick yourself up after rejection.
I have mixed feelings about Computing events aimed at women, and find myself asking: aren’t we past this? Do these events really have to exist? I wasn’t alone – many of the women I spoke to there shared the opinion that they also look forward to the day when events like these don’t exist. All of us are well aware of the abysmal uptake of Computing subjects at school and university amongst women. Is this a problem? Should we be encouraging a more equal gender distribution?
The Q&A panel at the end of the day had some interesting comments on the topic. Many felt that the greatest barriers they had faced during their careers were internal, not external – feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence and imposter syndrome are far more prevalent amongst women in IT, as is the dropout rate of women starting a career in tech over other careers.
I’m keen to keep attending events like these, whether gender segregated or not. They’re excellent ways to network and make friends with similar interests and I can’t recommend them enough.
Many thanks to Dr Dee for organising the fantastic event, and Aberystwyth University for hosting us. Congratulations also to the winners of the poster presentation! I hope to return next year and it’s my aim to get a few more RGU women along.