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.


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!