Bridging the gap for women in computer science
Source: Auckland ICT Graduate School

There is a significant lack of female representation in the modern world of computer science. It’s an issue that must be addressed.

It’s not because women are less capable than men when it comes to working in this sector. In fact, women used to be heavily involved in computer science, and for decades, the number of women involved in the field actually outpaced men.

However, in the 1980s, things changed. The percentage of women in computer science started to drastically fall.

Although it hasn’t officially been proven as the cause, it’s widely theorised that the drop of interest in computer science started with the rise of the personal computer, which was marketed more for boys rather than equally for both genders.

According to NPR, “These early personal computers weren’t much more than toys. You could play pong or simple shooting games, maybe do some word processing. And these toys were marketed almost entirely to men and boys.

Source: Auckland ICT Graduate School

“This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution. It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture.”

In the US, only 25 percent of the computer and mathematical sciences workforce are women, and similar statistics are seen worldwide.

Therefore, it’s essential we reverse this trend and encourage more female representation within computer science fields.

It’s not about forcing women to enter a male-dominated field, but rather, giving them the confidence and encouragement to pursue a degree and a career in STEM if they show an interest and passion for it.

Educators and parents must collectively and actively foster interests and confidence in scientific topics from an early age and remove negative connotations that could prevent women from pursuing their interests in the field.

Paving pathways to employment

Source: Auckland ICT Graduate School

At the Auckland ICT Graduate School in New Zealand, the programmes in Computer Science address the shortage of women in the field and encourage female students to excel in the sector in a number of ways.

The school aims to produce highly-skilled ICT graduates with work-relevant skills and deliver industry-focused information and communications technology education.

The school offers many avenues female students can take to pursue a rewarding career in the science field, even if it wasn’t the focus of their major during their undergraduate years.

Bachelor degree holders in a non-IT subject can enrol in a Postgraduate Certificate in Information Technology, while Bachelor degree holders in IT can enrol in a Masters of Information Technology, which includes a 10-week industry internship.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Information Technology transitions graduates from their initial area of study into computing, while the Masters of Information Technology trains people for the workforce.

Source: Auckland ICT Graduate School

The format for the two programmes gives students the ability to follow their selected pathway with positive results. To ensure continued relevance, the Auckland ICT Graduate School programmes have workshops with presenters from industry networks.

Both programmes are approved and endorsed by the Auckland ICT Graduate School Industry Advisory Group.

ICE Professional founder and CEO, Nuwanthie Samarakone, is a founding member of the board and alumni of the University of Auckland.

She recently told Viva, “As a member of the board, I have the opportunity to support not only the students and the various organisations that we engage with – but also help formulate and build the Auckland ICT Graduate School brand.

“We’ve found the interns of the ICT Graduate School Internship Programme value the ability to be able to put the theory and skills they learn from these courses into practical environments with real work experiences and projects. In doing so, interns feel as though they are able to develop a learning mind-set and apply this logically and cohesively with their work.”

Source: Auckland ICT Graduate School

Reflecting on her experience at the University of Auckland, she said, “It made me more accountable and aware that success in my degree was largely driven by me and my willingness to learn new things. The skills you learn are largely transferrable.

“During your study you don’t really think about it too much, but when you hit the workplace you realise that research and evaluation, critical thinking, analysis, project and operational management come into play.”

Success stories

Female students who have graduated from the programme have enjoyed great success, resulting in permanent placements.

Rose graduated with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science majoring in Molecular Pathology, but wanted to develop her IT skills, so she completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Information Technology at the Auckland ICT Graduate School, followed by a Master of Information Technology.

The flexibility provided by the master’s programme enabled her to select courses across a broad range of areas, combining her business and technical prowess and developing her analytical thinking skills, thought processes, logic and problem solving. This combination of factors cemented her thorough enjoyment of the programme.

Source: Auckland ICT Graduate School

During her internship, Rose worked on a project in innovation and R&D, and the partnership she forged with her fellow intern was beneficial in the exchange of ideas and the formulation of resolutions to the complex challenges faced.  Rose has now been employed by her internship provider and integrated into the team, continuing her excellent work on the project.

Amulya, another successful female graduate of the school, enrolled in the Master of Information Technology since she had already completed a Bachelor’s degree in Computing. While researching course options she was delighted to come across a programme that met her requirements perfectly and enjoyed a great learning experience.

The master’s programme provides an opportunity to learn both the management and the technological sides to software engineering and work in the real-world. By networking with people within industry, she was able to further learn from their experiences. Amuyla is now working in a permanent position with her internship provider.

For a supportive environment in Computer Science that equips students with postgraduate certifications and helps shape their future careers, both women and men make a solid choice by enrolling at the Auckland ICT Graduate School.

Click here to find out more about Auckland ICT Graduate School

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