Interview - Being a Woman in Computer Science

One topic that rarely gets coverage that I’ve seen is how women get along in male dominated environments, such as Computer Science. For me it has never mattered someone’s gender - I love using, tweaking and learning about computers and if you share that interest - the more, the better! It has been shown very young children are conditioned from a very young age by gender rules - shown by Prof. Robert Winston in Child of Our Time programme. So I’ve often wondered in a very skewed ratio of males to females (as generally there are more females than males in society) would affect a Woman’s choice of even considering Computer Science, since so few actually do. So I set about asking our class representative, Lauren Butler, her thoughts on Computers, doing Computer Science and being an authority figure in a male dominated class-room, my questions and her answers follow:

NG = Neil Grogan - LB = Lauren Butler - ED = Editor

NG: What first sparked your interest in Computers?

** LB:** Learning computers in Secondary School, seemed like a cool thing. But obviously I had been playing computer games for years since the Sega Mega drive came out so in a way I had probably been into computers and not really realized.

NG: Do you remember the first Computer you got?

LB: Some Toshiba piece of heavy brick like crap but it had Windows XP on it yay, the battery charger connection broke and couldn’t power it anymore so now it’s dead and good riddance I say.

NG: When did you first realise you’d like to do Computer Science? In School? Or after?

LB: Secondary School filling out my CAO application because I couldn’t think of anything else. Guidance councilor said to do arts (typical response to a person that doesn’t know what to do) but I wanted to be a Garda (ed: a police officer in Ireland) and computers was my fall back. Long story short the Gard’s didn’t want me after the whole application process so I went to my plan B…computers.

NG: Would you describe yourself as a Tomboy? You seem to fit the description of Heterosociality, ie. Preferring (or at least having to) have more male friends than female.

LB: Yes I’m a tomboy, obviously it’s kinda of weird for a girl to like computers and computer games. I do have a lot of guy friends and I do find them easier to get along with but I have a good amount of girl friends too.

NG: Do you remember you first perception of the female to male ratio of the class in first year (approx 3:40) ?

LB: “JESUS I Can’t believe I’m going to have to be in a class with all boys…oh wait there’s 4 girls over there”

NG: Did the fact that Computer Science is male dominated influence your choice negatively or positively?

LB: Neither. but I do get on better with boys than I do girls so In a way it’s kind of better for me to be in a male dominated environment.

NG: Do you feel female lecturers have been tougher or easier on you that you share gender? (ie. Common experiences)

** LB:** I don’t think they have been tougher but I do find they can’t interact with me as well as they do with the males

NG: Do you feel male lecturers have been tougher or easier on you that you differ in gender?

LB: No I don’t think they have been either but I may get away with being a bit ditsy at times

NG: Do you feel the fact the male to female ratio is skewed will help or hinder your career prospects?

LB: No I don’t think it will affect it in any way and it should or at least I hope it will be based on academics.

NG: What would it take to encourage more Women to consider Computer Science? What would you say to sell it to them as a profession?

LB: I honestly don’t know but the fact that you can get into basically any part of the computer industry by doing this course could be an incentive.

**NG: **Do you feel any aspect of the course is more male orientated? I remember one lecturer saying female students excel at coursework, but this reverses as projects come in later years, which males apparently do better at?

LB: No I don’t think it’s more male orientated but maybe that lecturer thinks the more hands on stuff is more male orientated but if like me who is a tomboy that sort of thing should be more interesting, i.e fixing computers that’s my favorite thing, one of which we don’t do enough of.

NG: As Class representative and a leader of the class, do you feel being a woman has positively impacted the class – i.e. That different experiences & differing management styles of Women can be a unifying force?

**LB: **I really don’t think I have had any sort of impact on the class, I’m just a very open person and I’d like to think that anyone in the class could come and class to me.

**NG: **Do you ever wish people would stop focusing on this male/female thing and that it all should be a meritocracy? It’s it stupid me asking these questions (have we already moved on?)?

**LB: **I personally don’t see it being focused on the male/female thing. Especially now being in third year where we are being placed in groups to work on projects, we all use our talents and abilities to achieve a good grade. Defiantly in my group I work in I have never had a problem with my gender being focused on, as long as every one pulls they’re weight who really cares about gender.