This was the first time an event for ‘Women in Computing’ had been held in the Computer Science Department.
The event was about encouraging more female students to consider computing as an option for their future, whether that is in the IT industry or with further study and research.
“Current figures show women are hugely under-represented in IT careers in New Zealand, which mirrors what is happening overseas,” said Dr Margaret Jefferies, Senior Lecturer in the University's Computer Science department.
“One of the reasons for this is the lack of visible role models that girls can relate to. They do not see themselves in the IT roles that attract attention in the media.”
But, she says, there are many successful women in computing who cannot imagine themselves in any other career.
“We aim to show that there are exciting and fulfilling careers to be found in IT for women. In the same way that women in the 1980s and 1990s realised the need to take ownership of women’s health issues, so women in the 2000s realise the need to be involved in the way IT is shaping our lives.”
Girls in Years 10 to 13 from around the Waikato and Bay of Plenty attended the half-day event. While at the University, they heard from a range of women in the New Zealand IT industry and academia, including Heather McEwen, Director of Xenacom IT Solutions - a major IT company delivering database-related professional services and web-centric software applications. Xenacom is based in the Waikato Innovation Park.
“The fact that people like Heather McEwen and her staff gave up their work day to be involved is indicative of how much support exists in the industry for initiatives like this,” said Dr Jefferies.
“The students need to know about women like Heather, who are having a huge impact on the development of IT. She started Xenacom in 1996 and is currently Director and co-owner of one of the fastest growing companies in the Waikato.”
Following the success this year’s event, the department is making ‘Women in Computing’ an annual event for high school students.