Dal society encourages females to study technology

Women in Technology Society holds talk to bridge gap between industry and Dalhousie University and encourage females to study tech-related fields


Bonnie MacKay speaks at the Girls Talk Tech event held by Women in Technology Society on Nov. 16. (Photo: Chelcie Soroka)

Female students, professors and industry experts, all involved in computer science, gathered at Saege Bistro on Nov. 16 to attend this semester’s Girls Talk Tech event.

Girls Talk Tech is held by Dalhousie University's Women in Technology Society, or WiTS.

WiTS was set up about four years ago to encourage females to get into technology fields and to raise awareness about women in male-dominated programs and careers, says President Kaitlyn Heap.

Heap is a fourth year student studying informatics and business in the computer science department at Dal.

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Bonnie MacKay, from the Dalhousie University computer sciences department, speaks at the Girls Talk Tech event held by WiTS on Nov. 16. (Photos: Chelcie Soroka)

Click to Enlarge A bar graph showing the difference in salaries between female and male Nova Scotians working in technology fields.

She says girls shouldn't be intimidated about studying in male-dominated technology fields like computer science.

"If you love it, you should do it and don't stop yourself," Heap says.

The Great Divide

Heap says there's already a stigma around computer science, and with students and professionals in technology fields being largely male, it can be scary for girls to get involved.

"People think 'oh, they're nerds,' sitting in front of a computer all day... but it's definitely not like that once you get more involved. It's just a stereotype," Heap says.

"There's such a divide,” she says. She wants to make sure people know there are females studying and working in computer science, too.

WiTS is, "a way to get our name out there and get industry people knowing we're working hard and we're here and we really want to get recognized," Heap says.

Gabriella Mosquera is a computer science instructor and is also working on her PhD.

She hopes WiTS will, "be able to bring a bit of a lighter side… and get people a little bit more involved in it and get more people into the field." She says there is a minority of female faculty in the computer science department at Dal.

Girls Talk Tech

WiTS holds events throughout the year, which men are welcome to attend, including bowling nights and lectures. Girls Talk Tech is their biggest event and it’s held once a semester. WiTS brings in industry experts and women currently working in the field to talk about their work and their experiences.

Heap says the goal is to "bridge the gap between academia and industry.”

The previous Girls Talk Tech was held in March 2011 and was sponsored by RIM, the makers of the BlackBerry smartphone.

Sage Franch is in her first year of studying computer science. She says she went to Girls Talk Tech because she, "wanted to check it out and see all the other women here, because I haven't seen many in class.

"I definitely feel like a minority but not in a bad way,” Franch says. “I don't feel oppressed by the male presence in the classroom. I think it's good to be the minority... it's opening the world's eyes to us."


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