Only a few months into her degree, computer science student Jane Parker set up a new networking group for female computer scientists at the University of Bath. Three years on, the Women in Technology society is now an official Chapter of the international network, the Association for Computing Machinery Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W).
Jane Parker will be awarded her First Class BSc (Hons) Computer Science at the University’s summer graduation ceremonies on Thursday 12 July.
Jane was the first Chair of the Women in Technology (WIT) group, setting it up along with her friend Emma James. The group started with 10 members and has grown to 30 over the three years.
At the start of the year, WIT runs so-called “speed-dating” welcome events, where the students introduce themselves in pairs to get to know each other.
Jane said: “When I started at Bath in my first year there were only about 15 women in my year out of approximately 100 students, although in recent years the gender balance has improved to around 20 per cent.
“Setting up WIT helped female Computer Science students across all the years meet together, make friendships and support each other. Getting to know other women across the years has really helped improve my confidence.
“Some of the best friendships I’ve made are since I’ve been at Bath.”
WIT also encouraged students to apply to the annual BCS Lovelace Colloquium, a national competition for female computer scientists to showcase their work. The group ran workshops to work on poster ideas and increased the number of entries from Bath from eight to 24 to the competitive invitation-only event.
This year was the most successful year, with seven women winning awards for their posters at the BCS Lovelace Colloquium 2018 held at Sheffield University in April.
Jane won first prize for her poster “Designing and Developing an Interactive Campus Map”, aspects of which are now being incorporated into an app by the University’s Computing Service.
She also worked as a student ambassador at the University’s open days, helping encourage other women to study Computer Science at Bath.
Jane said: “It makes no sense that women aren’t more involved in Computer Science. I think the idea that Computer Science being a ‘boys subject’ is slowly shifting, but one of the problems is that people leaving school still don’t really know what the subject is about.
“It’s not just about coding; Computer Science is much more creative than people think. For example you could be building a game, making animations or doing surveys and interviews to understand the psychology of how people interact with technology.
“I hope that I’ve helped show people that you can really have fun with it.”
Following the establishment of WIT, the department’s Bath Computer Science Society has become more representative, with a female chair and several female committee members. The two societies regularly run joint social events.
Dr Fabio Nemetz, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the University’s Department of Computer Science said: “As one of its co-founders and the first chair of WIT, Jane has left a positive legacy for current and future female Computer Science students.
“The Department of Computer Science is very proud of her achievements and will continue to support students’ initiatives that contribute to a more equal, inclusive and diverse student population.”