I went to see Dame Wendy Hall, professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton speak at the BCS Karen Spärck Jones Lecture recently and I was so interested to hear about her experiences as a woman in the industry.
The Karen Spärck Jones lecture is an annual event that honours women in computing research.
During her presentation on ‘How to enjoy a career in computing: the power of networks’ Hall said: “Karen was a mentor of mine and just an amazing woman. Women are often the hidden strength behind computing.”
Hall said discussing womens’ issues, in terms of employment and career progression, is not always useful and can sometimes hinder instead of help. She told of the time she was a female panelist during a debate about the lack of women in technology and felt that every woman at the conference had attended the session, whilst the men spoke about business.
She feels it almost isn’t fair that she has to stand up and talk about women issues all the time, but believes it is still an important topic to highlight as long as women are careful with how much time they spend on the issue.
She explained how her gender was the reason for missing out on a job after her PhD: “I couldn’t get a job in Maths so went for a job teaching male engineers. I had the interview with the male candidates and a male got the job. After the interview I was taken to the office and told they wanted to give me the job but could not because I was a woman. They didn’t think I could handle a class of male engineers.
She also touched upon the new computing curriculum due to kick off this September, saying: “The curriculum previously did not have programming at the heart, so it’s important that we don’t repeat history and ensure it is inclusive this time.
“Just adding technology to classrooms is useless. It’s like putting a pencil in each classroom – how does that enrich the learning experience?”