It’s Confirmed: Women Love Tech!  

And the participants of ACM-W Europe womENcourage Celebration of Women in Computing deemed that the Celebration was a huge success! Over 180 participants from 28 countries attended the womENcourage Celebration which exceeded their expectations from the lively socializing during the career fair and the poster session before the opening Keynote on Friday 25th September until the ending Keynote on Saturday afternoon. The attendees participated in several interesting activities including keynote talks, panel discussions, technical paper sessions, workshops, case studies, unconference sessions, and the hackathon. See the photos taken by our photographers, Kristina Lidayova and Tomas Oravec, and view the recorded sessions.

countriesOnMap

In the opening, Virginia Grande welcomed all womENcouragers attending the celebration at the impressive main building of Uppsala University. She also thanked all of our wonderful sponsors ACM, ACM-W, and Uppsala University, and supporters: Google, Inria, Oracle, Bloomberg, Cisco, Facebook, IAR Systems, FreeBSD, Informatics Europe, Intel and Microsoft Research. As a result of their generous support, 53 students were able to attend the Celebration with travel scholarships.  Virginia did not omit to give special mention to all men in the room. The first speaker ACM President Alex Wolf welcoming everyone to womENcourage,  effectually pointed out that “We would not be here at all if there was not a problem in our community. I want to make sure that all of us understand that this is not a women’s problem! This is a community problem! And it takes everyone to solve this problem.”  

Vicki Hanson’s keynote “The Human Side of Computing”vickie keynote

Vicki Hanson opened womENcourage with a keynote address on her research, highlighting Inclusive Technologies. Computing has often been envisioned as a way of augmenting human abilities.    Nowhere is such a computing goal more evident than in the field of accessibility where researchers seek to create devices and software to address needs of people who through age or disability face exclusion from full societal participation.   In creating accessible technology and novel accessibility tools, research has not only facilitated digital interactions and quality of life needs for many, but also has served to advance the field of computing more generally. By talking about her career and how she advanced, she encouraged the audience to think about opportunities in computing.

Åsa Cajander’s keynote “On Grit and Being the Token Figure”

Åsa’s talk about “On Grit and Being the Token Figure” brought up many of the topics that most of the women in the audience have experienced.  Many a somber faces listened to her tell her story,  each knowingly nodding as they were reminded of similar situations they had experienced.

AsaCMany kinds of grit are needed to survive in our current environment, Asa confirmed that we are not alone when faced with such circumstances. Asa said “Change comes slowly, but it is changing, we all need to continue to encourage these changes.”  The recording for this talk is here.

 

Marie-Paule Cani’s keynote “Towards Expressive 3D Modeling: An example of Career in Computer Graphic”      marie-paule audience

Through examples and videos Marie-Paule taught us why graphical design is essential for human creativity, including the fact that graphical simulation is difficult to control, and she described the new methodology which is emerging to ease the interactive design of complex shapes, objects and characters, possibly in motion.  During her summary she 2015-09-26 160523advised everyone to collaborate with others to succeed.  She also talked about being flexible when looking for a career.  And she emphasized that you should choose your own field,  twist your work to be what you want and to be open to opportunities. You can watch the recording here.

 

Red Chair  

Sitting on the red chair is symbolic. People sit on the red chair to recognize tSitWithMe12smallhe stories’ and contributions of women in computing.

During the entire celebration, the attendees enjoyed writing their quotes and having their photos taken while sitting on the Red Chair supporting the SitwithMe campaign. Read more about the SitwithMe  website and see the pictures taken during the celebration on their website.

 

Panel Discussions

WomENcourage hosted three panel discussions which provided participants with substantial insight into the following interesting topics from varying perspectives:

  1. Open Source as a Career PathPanel2
  2. Teaching and Learning 3.0
  3. Out of the Ordinary Jobs

Thanks to our fabulous panelists, attendees were given the opportunity to actively participate, ask and discuss questions during the panels.  All panels have been recorded and are available here.

Papers

Through the papers sessions, undergraduate, MSc, and PhD students were given the opportunity to present and share their current research work and their achievements with researchers and professionals who were attending the conference and receive valuable feedback by them. The womENcourage programme included 4 sessions of technical talks which aimed at sharing research ideas and discussing exciting new research directions.

The topics of the presented papers belong in the following four categories:

  •         Computing to Assist Disabled Individuals or Older Adults,
  •         Computation and Graphics,
  •         Human-Computer Interaction, and
  •         Gender issues in computing education.

All presented papers were interesting and they represented a decent range of topics in computing research. Their presentations resulted in four active paper sessions with several questions and interesting discussions following each talk.  The papers are posted on the womENcourage website here.

Unconferenceunconference

 The  unconference sessions effectuated interesting discussions on one or more subjects suggested by their participants who are also actively involved in the discussions. Thus, they were organized, structured, and led by their attendees. Once the idea of the Unconference was introduced to womENcourage attendees (at the beginning of the conference), they enthusiastically reacted by suggesting interesting topics that they wanted to discuss. Based on their suggestions, womENcourage hosted five unconference sessions on the following subjects: Feminism in computing, Women in computing: work-life balance, Improper Syndrome, Data mining, and Learning analytics on the second day of the conference and lasted for an hour each. They were all very successful with a lot of attendees being involved in them which resulted in lively and interesting discussions.

 Workshops

 ‘The workshops were brilliant, I really enjoyed the hands on experience” echos the resounding message from the participants.  Each of the 7 workshops were well attended and they all learned something new from basic electronics to creating wearables to understanding open source code.  Each of the workshops were created by dedicated volunteers who put their time and money into teaching something new: 

  • Making Your Ideas into Realityworkshop
  • Coding for All
  • Prototyping: Wearable Electronics
  • ACM ICPC
  • Introducing Alice
  • Contributing to Open Source
  • Queer Women in Tech
  • ACM-W Volunteers

Results of the feedback shows that this was the most requested part of the program, each of the sessions were full and even had waiting lists.

ACM-W Europe and Coddess Hackathon sponsored by Intel and Microsoft Research

hackathonThe Hackathon kicked off the womENcourage Celebration in Uppsala. At around 8:30 on Thursday morning, the participants, who came from 17 different countries, began arriving and they were immediately encouraged to mingle and discuss projects. Quickly we saw teams forming and project enthusiasm grow. After a short introduction and some technical instructions, they perused the hardware, collecting sensors and boards, and began with the discussion planning and the implementation of their projects. Team members collaborated nicely and we could see that they became fast friends.

The winning team came from 4 countries: Palestine, Burma, Russia and Sweden. Their project, called “Free Fall”, created a device which can be attached to a person’s wrist or belt and alert if the person suddenly faces a fall.  Specifically, in case of a fall, the proposed device takes the following actions:

  1. If the person is unconscious it will contact the person’s primary contact stored in the device
  2. If the person is conscious, s/he is given the capability to push a button to cancel the produced alert
  3. The capability to contact a secondary contact, stored in the device, is also provided.

The second award called “SAfeHome” went to a portable CO2 and gas alarm system which would be used in houses that have no electricity and that heat with propane.  The idea was that this could save many people in impoverished areas of India and Africa. The device would be inexpensive and easily able to carry with you to use in any situation.

The third award was given to the project “Be My Eyes” which designed a device useful for visually impaired people. The device can be put on their walking stick to provide information about the site they are on, obstacles that they have to avoid, or tourist attractions that are nearby. The device uses GPS which interfaces via Bluetooth to other devices.

At the end of day, there were participants that admitted: “This is the most fun I have had in one day EVER!”   

Thanks to celebration committee, who worked hard to make womENcourage 2015 a big success!

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Following this big success, plans are set in place for the next womENcourage 2016 in Linz, Austria, next September.

 

 

Women in HPC

Two years ago, the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) set up the Women in High Performance Computing to address the gender imbalance in High Performance Computing (HPC).  Women in HPC is a network that supports collaboration and networking by bringing together female HPC scientists, researchers, developers, users and technicians from across Europe.

The Women in High Performance Computing (WHPC) Network works to raise the professional profile of Women in HPC by:

  • Bringing together female HPC scientists, researchers, developers, users and technicians;
  • Raising the professional profile of women working in HPC;
  • Increasing the participation of women in outreach activities;
  • Assessing the influence of equality initiatives on the HPC community.

To encourage women to participate in HPC Women in HPC aims to:

  • Increase the visibility of experienced female role models in HPC;
  • Provide opportunities for networking amongst women in HPC, both peer-to-peer and peer-to-role model;
  • Raise awareness that gender-balancing of research groups improves scientific output.

This initiative encourages women working with HPC to engage in outreach activities and improve the visibility of inspirational role models. Its activities are complemented by providing opportunities for networking amongst women in HPC, both peer-to-peer and peer-to-role model and raise awareness that gender-balancing of research groups improves scientific output.

Gender inequality is a key problem across all scientific disciplines, both in academia and industry. The European Commission report on gender inequality (published in 2012, but using figures from 2009-2010) shows that, across the 27 countries in the EU, there is a significant gender gap in science education and beyond (Laroche 2013). These figures indicate that women educated to tertiary level were more likely to have a technical or professional job than men with a similar level of education. Despite this, women were found to be less likely to be scientists or engineers than men and were less likely to use a science-based PhD in a research career than men.

HPC is a discipline that spans multiple traditional science subjects and relies on leading-edge scientific research. It would be plausible that the gender inequality issue, which has been identified and quantified across many fields of science and scientific research, is overcome by the broad range of traditional subjects that contribute towards HPC. However, research by

Women in HPC has found that women make up between 5% and 17% of HPC users, researchers and conference attendees. For example at the largest supercomputing conference in the world in 2014, SC14, only 11% of the attendees were female, at EASC 2015 the proportion of women was 15%, but for the more specialist conference PGAS 2013, only 5.1% of the attendees were women. The numbers improve slightly when considering participants in HPC: of the registered users of the UK national HPC facility, ARCHER, 17% are female.

Despite an apparently low starting point, the supercomputing community has an opportunity to take advantage of its multi-disciplinary roots and encourage women from diverse backgrounds into the field of HPC. To motivate action, we must measure and publicise the magnitude of the problem we face. To be effective, we must understand why women do not pursue careers in HPC so that our efforts can be appropriately targeted.

Women in HPC run annual events at the two largest HPC conferences in the world: ISC, SC. In addition we run one UK workshop as well as training in HPC specifically for women. In July 2015 we signed our first international agreement, welcoming Compute Canada as our first international chapter. In collaboration with PRACE Women in HPC has run a training and networking event at the PRACEDays 2015 conference in Dublin, Ireland and we have jointly published a ‘Women in HPC’ magazine highlighting the impact of the work done by women using European HPC facilities. However, with no more than 17% of HPC users being female, the HPC community and the work done by Women in HPC still has a long way to go.

The next upcoming event will be the third international Women in HPC workshop at Supercomputing 2015 on November 20th in Austin, Texas. The workshop aims to address gender issues in HPC research and innovation, the challenges facing women and how gender inequality can impact efficacy of the scientific method and research quality. It will include talks from female early career researchers panel discussions on how to improve diversity in HPC as well as an invited talk by researchers working on addressing the gender imbalance in HPC
There are some opportunities to foster a relationship between ACM-W and Women in HPC.

Come to the ACM Volunteer workshop to know more or approach to the poster session in ACM womENcourage 2015!

References:

Women in HPC: http://www.womeninhpc.org.uk/
Laroche, Gilles et al. She Figures 2012 – Gender in Research and Innovation. European Commission, Germany: European Union, 2013.
Williams Woolley, Anita, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone. “Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups.” Science 330, no. 6004 (10 2010): 686-688.
Supercomputing 2014, http://sc14.supercomputing.org,
3rd Annual Exascale and Applications Software Conference, EASC 2014, http://www.easc2015.ed.ac.uk, EPCC, University of Edinburgh
7th international conference on PGAS programming models, PGAS2013, http://www.pgas2013.org.uk/home, EPCC, University of Edinburgh
ARCHER, http://www.archer.ac.uk/, EPSRC and EPCC, University of Edinburgh
Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE), http://www.prace-ri.eu/

Steam Camp

Growing together

Thursday aftIMG_0350webernoon, after the drag races, we began working on implementing WIFI with the Intel Galileo boards, the girls worked again in teams of 2 to follow the directions we had prepared, no hesitation exists anymore in trying new ideas or going beyond the initial instructions. As they had put LEDs on their cars for headlights and taillights and programmed the turns and twists of the race, they now tested and implemented the WIFI and then began discussing the guidelines for the next week’s projects. I was amazed at how competent they had become in just a few days. They were to use the knowledge they had gained this week to plan a project that would have impact on their community. Some continued to enhance the cars they built earlier, others change the overall design of their ideas to begin the idea of the project they would complete.. All of them were engaged and ready to move forward with new team members. I heard several ideas as teams were being formed. Guidelines stated they needed a country diverse group (no more than two team members from the same country) but they were not restricted to their current classrooms. As we wrapped up the last session of the day, I knew in my mind that the next week was going to be more amazing than this week. Looking back, I think I learned more from this group of students than they learned from me. Teaching is an art that grows with experience and this experience has changed the way I teach.

Final week

IMG_0659webMonday morning started with a beautiful sunrise. From my hotel I could see the sliver of a moon as the sun rose with the red hues of morning light. This was the beginning of our final week. We no longer had content to prepare or teach, the week and the progress was totally dependent upon the projects that our students dreamed about. With the partners we encouraged the teams to develop a project abstract that would allow us to evaluate and give feedback on their ideas. Some teams had decided upon the project and were already working on implementation. Other teams had multiple ideas and they could not decide which to implement, they wanted me to decide for them, which I could not do.

Five projects were assigned to my room, I have different girls than last week, some I know from last week and some I get to know this week. Abstracts are written and delivered to be reviewed. We determined the hardware they needed and I collected and brought each team their sensors and other items that were critical to their project. Most of the sensors were new to our technical team so we all picked a few and started testing.  Our worst nightmare was that the students would run into a technical problem that we could not fix. On Monday and Tuesday everything ran smoothly. I was worried about one project as they never seemed to be around and did not appear to be working. After testing the two sensors they needed they were gone, as opposed to a very technical project that was constantly asking for help and to which we kept adding more sensors

We workedIMG_0678web through all the technical topics, they delivered pitches, I listened to them and they listened to me, we worked together, and panicked together when a sensor failed, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when it worked. What was hidden from me, was the work on the presentation and marketing pitches, we focused on the technical and not so much on the rest of the project. This amazing result became evident to me on the final day.  The product and marketing info far surpassed my expectations.IMG_0680web

IMG_0673webI could not be prouder of the results of the IMG_0677webprojects, these young women excelled in everything they did. Even the one where I had concerns, they exceeded my expectations. I post these photos to bear witness to what amazing women were in my group.

As I walked to the last dinner at the camp, 4 young women, my students, approached me and gave me big hugs, they said ‘Thank you for coming to teach us, it is inspiring for us to see a woman in the role of trainer, you have taught us so much, thank you for this, we will never forget!”

I am sitting on the plane the last leg of my journey back to my real job, and home. I am reading the biographies of my students in the handbook, which the girls wrote prior to WiSCI 2015. I am proud of what they learned, proud of how they have changed, and very proud that I had the opportunity to teach them.

Crash Course

Lucky me!!! Selected from a wide field of applicants, I joined the volunteer team from Intel as a technical train20258760082_04ff01f705_zer for WiSCI 2015, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) camp for 120 High School Students from 9 different countries (90 from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and 30 from the USA) . As the only female technical trainer in a team of 4 volunteer technical trainers, I feel especially thankful for this opportunity. After months of preparation and planning we arrived in Rwanda late evening with only 4 days before we would start teaching the girls the basics of programming and electronics using the Intel Galileo Board. I met four of my teammates with whom I had only spoken to on the phone at the airport in Brussels, the other three I met at Kigali airport when we landed. Throwing 8 people into a bus, is certainly a good way to get to know each other, the conversations were fast and furious.

 

Preparation at the school started Thursday afternoon after a long bus ride, our arrival at Gashora Girls Academy was met with shy hellos and direct questions “Are you the Intel teachers?” The girls were finishing the first week of Codu training from Microsoft and had already heard that we were arriving that afternoon. Unpacking the three pallets of equipment was the first order of business, followed by training the Gashora teachers on Friday morning. Friday afternoon we saw the results of the first week of Codu training when the girls presented the games they had developed. I am amazed at the presence they have during the presentation with each of them pitching their resulting projects. This was the first real impression of the girls, I saw accomplished girls who demonstrated their work, some a bit shy, some confident and others hanging back, standing behind their teammates. I knew the next two weeks would be amazing. 

Monday morning, after a long weekend of setup and finalizing the curriculum and content. I walked into my class of 29 young women, they were all full of smiles and laughter. Most had no experience with programming or electronics, but all were eager to learn. The ratio 3 to 30 (1 teacher from Gashora Girls School, 1 helper from our non-technical team members, and myself as the lead trainer to 30 students) presented a difficult situation. My experience working with younger boys and girls for a class earlier in the year, proved that we needed one helper for two teams of two (4 students), unfortunately we were not afforded that luxury at the WiSci 2015. Working with care and precision through the instructions with breadboards, LEDs, wires and resistors, we finally had smiles and shrieks as one LED after another started blinking. Those smiles are my reward for all the work completed in the previous months.

First morning of classes

First morning of classes

After a short introduction to programming and introducing the sensors of the Seeed Studio Grove Starter Kit, I saw apprehension creeping into the room. The long day began to take its toll and I heard multiple times ‘I don’t understand’. We continued to work slowly toward 6PM, adding more concepts and materials throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Hindsight is always 20-20 vision and I can see now that the day was much too long. In our first debrief at the end of the day, we made our first change to our original plan, slowing down a bit and agreeing to end classes the rest of the week by 5pm instead of 6 in the evening.

The next morning the students were full of excitement, electronic concepts clouded the vision and small technical issues tended to slow the progress of each of the teams. Our technical team worked during lunch again to resolve some issues and after finding a fix, the bright smiles again filled the rooms. Each girl seemed to glow more as the LCD printed the messages, their smiles

Building our cars

Building our cars

and laughter showed a confidence that did not exist before. Two days into the class we already saw the beginnings of makers and ideas as they became creative during the challenge sessions. In the late afternoon the girls were given a kit to build a robot car, in teams of two they began creating the small vehicles that would be their entries into the drag races.

On the third day, technical issues plagued the teams, I went from group to group to resolve issues. Another lunch hour working and finding a fix. Finally we saw robot cars turning and racing across the room, followed by laughing girls and happy faces. Stepping through the code that controls the direction of driving on the robot car, I explained the concepts and more details of programming. Soon the concept of binary numbers, digital writes and reading the sensors

The winning car

The winning car

became old news. The immediate result in the direction of movement gave each of them the confidence to try more programming to see how to make the cars drive in circles and along straight lines. With each turn of the wheel and buzz of the motors, I celebrated the opportunity to see each of them growing their knowledge as well as their confidence. Thankful again that I had this amazing opportunity to share technology with each and every one.

If you haven’t already, please check out some of the documentation of the camp via these photos and videos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wisci/

“Meet the Girls” AOL Video: http://on.aol.com/partner/aol-originals-517149677/videoId=519006984

“Women in Tech” AOL Video: http://on.aol.com/partner/aol-originals-517149677/playlist=125418?icid=bottom_related_thumb_0

“The Final Week” AOL Videl: http://on.aol.com/partner/aol-originals-517149677/videoId=519006959?icid=bottom_related_thumb_6

 

Link

Improve your bottom line-improve diversity

The question I get asked by my management on a regular basis is how do we find technical women to hire? And the second question is how do we keep the women that we have? Working in this field for the past 30 years where, in the beginning, my group was 60% women, to now, being in a group where I am the only technical female, I understand the concerns of management. It’s definitely a problem!

Because of these concerns, I focus on supporting technical women in any way I am able. One of the most inspiring experiences that I, as a technical woman, have experienced is womENcourage 2014 in Manchester, UK. Women appreciate having women colleagues. ‘Being the only woman in a workplace, or even one of 2 or 3 in a large workplace can be a very isolating experience.’1 The opportunity to meet other technical women, and come to the realization that you are not alone, is a very inspiring and encouraging experience. As an employer, you now have an opportunity to provide this experience to both your female and male employees.  Inspire your employees by sending them to womENcourage 2015. They will thank you for the mentoring, networking and inspiration. You will see a more inspired workforce.

Why is Diversity important?

It has been shown in multiple studies that diversity and gender equality at the management level of a company improves the bottom line of the company. Essentially ‘Companies led by women get better results2 ‘ and it is shown that this improvement in productivity works at all levels of an organization. When you consider that women are most likely the consumer of your products, doesn’t it make sense that having them on the design and development team would make a better product. 3
Even so in STEM fields, both in academia and industry, the number of women are severely lagging behind.

Multiple topics arise when we consider the gender diversity gap.

● ‘My manager says no woman applied for our open positions.’
● Unconscious bias from both women and men interviewers impact the number of women initially hired.
● A friendly workplace helps to retain women.
● Organizations with good management practices retain more women.
Several studies4,5 show that making small changes to address these topics can make a difference.

What can you do?

What can we do to create a work environment that increases the number of women we interview, hire, and retain in our companies?

Quite frankly, we cannot hire women if they do not apply for our positions. That means they need to know positions are available. Changing how and where we post and how we network can increase the number of applications; how we search out and post on mailing lists. Additionally, we need to change the way we write the job description to be more inclusive of women. Lastly, in order to hire women become part of their network, we need to relate to the women, support women and join their network.

It is important to recognize that unconscious bias exists and plan to avoid it, identify fair interview processes, understand interviewing stereotypes that impact how women are perceived.6 Implement an interview plan to determines the best candidate for the position.

Providing both men and women with challenging projects, good development opportunities and a supportive equal environment is just good management. We know that organizations with good management practices retain more women. Creating a welcoming environment for all employees which allows a work life balance, with a positive and respectful environment and with the opportunity for mentoring and networking.

Allowing technical women to develop through networking, challenging projects, mentoring and role models will benefit both the women and the bottom line of your company. womENcourage 2015 provides women with opportunities to expand their network throughout Europe. Your employees can exchange ideas and information with like-minded women and men. Support your employees, send them to womENcourage 2015! Have them register here

1. http://www.aauw.org/research/solving-the-equation
2. http://rule-of-one.blogspot.com.tr/2014/10/the-data-on-diversity-its-not-just.html
3. http://www.ebnonline.com/author.asp?section_id=3701&doc_id=276428&
4. http://www.ebnonline.com/author.asp?section_id=3219&doc_id=276140

5. http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/HOWTO_recruit_and_retain_women_in_tech_workplaces
6. http://www.management-issues.com/news/5421/interview-stereotyping-undermines-women/

Meet the Keynote speakers of womENcourage 2015

As a continuation of the series on keynote speakers of womENcourage 2015, this month we travel to Grenoble, France to meet with Marie-Paule Cani! As a Professor of Computer Science at Grenoble University (Grenoble Institute of Technology & Inria) Marie-Paule is an inspiration to her students and her peers. Her research interests cover both Shape Modelling and Computer Animation. She contributed over the years to a number of high level models for shapes and motion such as implicit surfaces, multi-resolution physically-based animation and hybrid representations for real-time natural scenes. Following a long lasting interest for virtual sculpture, she has been recently searching for more efficient ways to create 3D content such as combining sketch-based interfaces with procedural models expressing a priori knowledge. She received the Eurographics outstanding technical contributions award in 2011 and a silver medal from CNRS in 2012 for this work.

Cani-photoMarie-Paule Cani served in the program committees of all major conferences in computer Graphics and was program chair a number of times. She served in the steering committees of SCA, SBIM and SMI, and in the editorial board of Graphical Models, IEEE TVCG and CGF. She was an EC member of ACM SIGGRAPH from 2007 to 2011, and she represented Computer Graphics in the ACM Publication Board from 2011 to 2014. In France, she belongs to the executive board of the GDR IG (Informatique Graphique) and to the CA of the French chapter of Eurographics. She has been Vice President of Eurographics since January 2013.  As the chair of the Outreach Committee of ACM-WE, Bev Bachmayer, had the opportunity to catch up with Marie-Paule for a short discussion last month.

1. Why is the conference important to you?

I have been trying to encourage young women to do Computer Science – and especially Computer Graphics which is my area of research – for many years now. And I really believe that networking and meeting with women more advanced in their career can play a major role in the motivation of young female students. So the womENcourage Celebration of Women in Computing is exactly among the kind of actions I’m finding the most useful.

More specifically, we were 50% of girls during my graduate studies in Computer Science in France at the end of the eighties. But I realized when I became assistant professor and then full prof that fewer and fewer of my students were girls (the proportion of girls went down to about 10% of the students). It is like if “Computers are for boys” was becoming a new stereotype in our digital societies. Moreover, careers in sciences were not necessarily easy for women. I therefore joined the “Femmes et Science” (Women and sciences) French association since its creation.

When I was in Sabbatical in New Zealand in 2007, I was invited to give a talk about ‘Women in Computer Science’ in their gender seminar, and this gave me the opportunity to read a lot of very interesting studies about the birth of this stereotype. In parallel, I had tried over the years to keep a good proportion of girls among my PhD student -and they succeeded very well, so in recognition for these two types of actions, I received the ‘Irene Jolliet Curie’ award (a French national award) in 2007 in the ‘mentoring’ category, for my action for supporting women in computing.

More recently, during the summer 2013, I had the opportunity to attend a Computer Science workshop only for women “Women in Shape”, at UCLA.

http://www.ipam.ucla.edu/programs/special-events-and-conferences/women-in-shape-wish-modeling-boundaries-of-objects-in-2-and-3-dimensions-in-cooperation-with-awm/

There I was given the opportunity to define a research project and work during one week with a team of young women, from graduate students to assistant professors, full time on this projects. 4 teams of women were working in parallel and staying together in a “sorority house”. This was a wonderful experience! It helped a lot for networking, and also organized round tables about careers, raising children at the same time, etc. Even if “womENcourage” is a more classical conference with talks, I’m expecting to find there the same kind of networking opportunity, but at a wider scale.

2. What do you enjoy most about your work?
– I really enjoy working with others: in France we work in teams, I am the head of a team of about 35 people, with 6 faculty – 2 or which are women, PhD students, master students, post-docs visitor and engineers.

– I love sharing ideas, both through research and through teaching : this year I was lucky enough to be elected as the yearly “Computing and digital sciences” chair at College de France, where I have the opportunity to give lecture about my research that are open to the general public as well: http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/en-marie-paule-cani/index.htm

– I really like meeting old friends from many different countries at international conferences: I attended my first ACM SIGGRAPH conference in 1987, when I was a graduate student. Now most of the friends I met at this period and after are professors on different parts of the worlds, we are always trying to set up collaborations.

– And above all, I love my research domain all about creation of shapes and motions in 3D!

3. What would you want the participants to learn from your keynote speech or the conference in general?

My key-note is going to be a scientific talk, but I am lucky enough with my research topic: it is very visual and can be easily explained to people who are not working in the area of Computer Graphics. The goal of my research is to turn digital media into a tool enabling anybody (no matter if they are scientists, engineers, or the general public) to express and progressively refine the 3D shapes and motions they have in mind, as easily and much more efficiently as if they were using a pen. Contrary to what you may think, this is not a matter of interface: the key of the approach is to develop a new generation of “user-centered graphical models”, that can be created using simple gestures and actions (sketching, sculpting, stretching, and copy-pasting) and react the way a human user expects under these gestures, thanks to embedded knowledge. I’m going to illustrate this approach through various examples, from creating virtual garments from a sketch, animating them in real time and transferring them to characters with a different morphology – thanks to embedded knowledge on developable surfaces; sketching and sculpting arbitrary solid shapes to be printed; modeling in minute’s plausible biological objects such as trees, needed to populate virtual worlds.

To learn from the conference: I expect that young female students will learn that careers in Computer Sciences are definitively for them, that we need diversity in this domain as in all others domains, and that they can count on a network of women who are more advanced in their career to help them.

Meet the Keynote Speakers of womENcourage 2015

Virginia and Andreína, conference chairs of womENcourage 2015, are pleased to announce that the ACM-W Europe womENcourage 2015 Celebration of Women in Computing on September 24-26 will have three keynote addresses. In the next few months, the newsletter will give us a brief introduction to each of the three keynote speakers. We are excited to have the chance to meet with and listen to women in academia and industry on both technical and career related topics.

asa

In this March newsletter we go to Uppsala University to meet Åsa Cajander. Åsa is Associate Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Uppsala University. In addition to her work as an associate professor, Åsa is an active advocate for women in computing and supports initiatives like womENcourage as part of her role as Gender Equity Officer at her department. Additionally, she is faculty sponsor of the local ACM-W Student Chapter. As the chair of the Outreach Committee of ACM-WE, Bev Bachmayer, had the opportunity to catch up with Åsa for a short discussion last month.

1. Why is the conference important to you?

I think that it is really important to attract more women to the field of computing. The gendered stereotyping of the field as being a male subject has many disadvantages, and the womENcourage conference plays an important part in breaking this stereotype. Through the conference women may see the full breadth of the areas of study and have the opportunity to network with other women. There are many extremely interesting areas in computer science and information technology, and I hope that the participants feel encouraged to stay in the field after having been to the conference. I think that computer science is indeed much more fun than most people believe.

2. What do you enjoy most about your work?

I work as a teacher, supervisor and researcher in several different projects. I also work as the gender equity officer at the department. The most enjoyable part of my work is meeting people and to discuss and understand their perspective of the world. I love to talk to people and to learn from them, and sometimes also try to find solutions together with them as a coach. I have the opportunity to do this in many areas of my work, and this is what motivates me the most. I also really love those moments of “flow” in my work. Where the world disappears, and I have suddenly seen something new and interesting or perhaps a new perspective of a well-known problem. Often these moments come in discussions with others, or when reading and writing a paper.

3. What would you want the participants to learn from your keynote speech or the conference in general?

I will touch upon different things in my keynote. First of all I will talk some about my research on success in computer science education, and the strong importance of grit and perseverance. Research has shown that having grit is more important than IQ or any other personality trait, and that grit together with the student’s overall view of success matters the most. If you work hard, and don’t give up when it is getting really complicated, then you are likely to have a good career in any subject, including computer science.

I will also tell some stories about how it is to be a woman in a male dominated field. Being the token figure is not that easy. I would like the participants to understand how important it is that we all work on changing the stereotypes. I will try to make my keynote both funny and personal, and be generous in sharing my catastrophic moments as well as some bright ones.

I would like the participants to be inspired and motivated by the conference as such. Perhaps get new understandings of a specific technology, and also meet new friends and network. Most of all I want the participants to have fun and enjoy the conference!

Learning to lead at GHC 2014

As women studying computer science, we know that women in computing need encouragement in all stages of their careers. Because of this, we committed ourselves to bringing you womENcourage 2015, giving us the opportunity to encourage women in computing across Europe. As co-chairs of the European celebration of women in computing, we have experienced this year the impact that such a celebration can have on a woman’s career. For this reason, we are working hard to bring to you a chance to learn to lead the wave of women encouraging women.

Imagine our surprise and excitement when we found that we would be attending our first Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, AZ: we really could not imagine how it would influence us. The experience of being at the same place with over 7000 technical women is almost indescribable. The rooms were filled with inspiration. We met so many new friends, added to our networks and heard talks and discussions on technical topics and the latest career topics. Everything was organized so that we were able to meet people everywhere: from the long coffee queues to the shuttle to the hotel, the networking never stopped! What we discovered in this experience is that, if you are a woman in technology, getting together with other women in computing creates a profound atmosphere that is encouraging, inspiring and downright uplifting.

In addition to networking, we did attend sessions. Many highlights include: “Graduate school survival skills”, “Building your professional persona”, “It doesn’t have to be pink! Designing for women”, “Visibility Everywhere: Building Web/Social Media Presence for Women in Computing” and “Tackling Everyday Challenges in a Global Workplace”.

This experience inspired us to create a womENcourage 2015 Celebration of Women in Computing that will excite and inspire YOU! We want you to participate and make the most out of the experience! Go to womencourage.acm.org and submit a paper, poster, workshop or panel discussion. Sign up to volunteer, give your feedback and share your ideas for womENcourage 2015.

Looking forward to seeing you in Uppsala,

Andreina Francisco and Virginia Grande