On Tuesday I gave an invited talk to the BCS Birmingham Branch, as a joint event with BCSWomen, with the title “Where have all the women gone? Women in computing: what’s the problem, why should you be bothered, and what can we do about it?“. This was my first real branch talk – I’ve spoken to BCSWomen specific events lots of times, and I’ve spoken to all sorts of other conferences, but I’ve never done the “general computing audience” talk thing before, so I was actually a bit nervous to begin with.
As you might be able to guess from the subtitle it was a talk of three sections (or three halves, as I accidentally said at the start!). To begin with I talked about women in computing and where we are in terms of statistics – basically trying to define the problem, and convince people in the audience that numbers were low (this was not hard to do) and that it hadn’t always been that way. In part 2, I discussed various reasons why we ought to be bothered about that, including the business case for diversity (McKinsey Report, for example) and the benefits of working in teams that aren’t practical nerd monocultures. And finally I discussed some things to try and do about it, and some things not to try and do about it. The take-home message (I hope) should have been that the kinds of things women want from a profession and a discipline (engagement, flexible working, encouragement, support for career breaks, diverse environments…) would actually make it better for everyone, and that computing in schools is amazingly important (again, not just for the girls).
I got some great questions and some great engagement from an audience that was 50% female. From what I could tell the talk went really well, and I changed a few minds. I might even have persuaded some people to sign up for computingplusplus, an initiative to link computer professionals with schools. You can find my slides here: http://users.aber.ac.uk/hmd1/talks/womengone.pdf.
Birmingham BCS were a really friendly branch and I enjoyed the evening loads – it’s a controversial topic, and the discussion was lively and thoughtful. If any other BCS branches are interested in a similar talk, do get in touch – BCSWomen have lots of good speakers all over the country, so if I can’t get there I’m sure we can find someone who can.
I’ve been a bit slack about updating the blog, but it’s not because I’m a lazy blogger, it’s because I’ve been just super-busy. Expect posts soon on the Computing at School conference in Birmingham, the Technocamps/CAS conference in Swansea, the Child’s World conference in Aberystwyth (going on this week), the Crucible workshop in Cardiff next week, and the Technocamps AI module (soon to be released as creative commons material). It’s all go innit.