Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Line Game at Design Tomorrow's World

I just got back from Design Tomorrow's World. The event is very engineering focused, so being a computer scientist, I wanted to give them a bit of an idea of what CS is all about. I was invited to do an ice-breaker activity for ten minutes.

Normally, in these situations, I would use CS Unplugged activities. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to plan how to do these in only ten minutes, so I thought back to what I learned at an excellent outreach session at Grace Hopper 2008.

I ended up doing an easy little ice breaker called "the line game" some of you might be able to use one day. Basically, you have the group arrange themselves in a line based on how well they agree with a particular statement. This forces them to move around, and to talk to the others so they find the right spot (you can probably even bring in some sorting theory into it). I used three statements that lead into a bit about what computer science is all about:
  1. "I like playing video games." For those who really loved them, I talked about my school's computer science games stream. For the others, I explained that not everyone in CS is into games (basically trying to show that it's not a bunch of male, nerdy hard-core gamers).
  2. "I like math." I explained how algorithms are like mathematical thinking, but that you can focus more on design of interfaces and people etc if you want to.
  3. "I have programmed or would like to try it." Everyone has to learn to program in computer science, I said that it's worth giving a try since they might like it (then I plugged my upcoming mini-course they could sign up for - Computer Science and Games: Just For Girls!).
The activity seemed to hit the spot, as I had some educators get my contact info afterwards so I could come tell their gifted students more about computer science. I think the girls also appreciated getting up and moving. ;)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Capstone: Exciting Collaborative Opportunity for Undergraduate Students

This is a guest post from Greg Wilson from the University of Toronto; Greg is hoping to increase awareness of this really cool opportunity, and would especially like to see more women take notice.

Over the past year, we have been piloting a new program in which senior undergrads from several different universities work together on open source projects. Each student registers in a project course at his or her home institution, then works in a team of 4-6 students that span several schools. The goal is to give students hands-on experience with both leading edge software, and the human skills that are just as vital to being successful in the real world.

This term we have 45 students from 14 universities on 8 different projects including geospatial database extensions, configuration tools for the Mozilla Thunderbird email client, soccer-playing robots, and a variety of others. Their work has ranged from surveying users about their needs and designing user interfaces to coding, testing, and preparing releases. There has been a lot of online discussion and negotiation, and some face to face as well: we brought all the students together for three days early in term for meetings, and plan to do it again next term.

We are now recruiting students for the next round (Jan-Apr 2010). Our project list is up at http://ucosp.wordpress.com/projects/, and once again there's going to be a strong emphasis on collaboration and design. If you have a strong B or A average and are interested in taking part, please contact your local faculty organizer --- as past students have discovered, it's a great way to open doors for both grad school and industry, and equally great for discovering that there's more to software development than hacking in C.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

An inspirational book written by our very own

Dr. Monique Frize is an engineering professor at Carleton and Ottawa University who revived Ottawa WISE in 1997. After 8 years of researching, writing, and editing, she finally published her book titled "The Bold and the Brave: a history of women in science and engineering". I attended her book launch on Dec. 1st, got her autograph, and started reading the next day.

I've been waiting to get my hands on this book ever since I first met Dr. Frize at McMaster University's WISE initiative conference in 2008 where she was a speaker. To tell you the truth I was quite enthralled by all that she knew and had experienced. I remember she talked about things that happened so far back in time that I realized just how big of a deal her book was and I wanted to know more.

I haven't read very far yet so you'll have to wait for more posts from me later, but I wanted to leave you with a short interview my friend Jennifer Ng, the IEEE WIE Ottawa Chair, had with Dr Frize:
What was the most challenging part of the book to write? What was the easiest? The first two parts (philosophy and history) were the most difficult as I had to find all the material from sources that I had not seen before. The contemporary part was the easiest, having done 20 years of work on women in science and engineering through the two Chair positions I held (Northern telecom/NSERC women in engineering Chair at UNB, then the NSERC/Nortel Chair for women in science and engineering at UO and CU).

If you did not study engineering, what would have been your alternate choice?
Medicine was my other choice.

If you restarted your engineering studies today, what specialties would catch your attention?
The same: Electrical Engineering and then Biomedical Engineering

Is there an engineering domain today which one has to be brave & bold to tackle?
I think most would require a woman with confidence, who believes in herself. But perhaps biomed and environmental are a little easier for women than say mining or construction, petroleum, etc.

Any particular advice for today's young female engineer?
Believe in yourself! And find good mentors at each stage of a career. Jump over hurdles and you will reach your goals. Pick your battles carefully and sleep 24 hours prior to responding to conflict by letter or a meeting (except if an immediate response is needed).

Any particular advice for today's young male engineer?
You need to see the value in feminine attributes and respect your female colleagues. Everyone has their talents and skills and it is important to value the contributions from people who are different from us. You can be part of the solution to build a balanced world of engineering and technology.

Anything else that you would like our IEEE Canada readers to know about your book?
Everyone can find something in the book that they can do to move towards an engineering profession that is more balanced and that respects everyone's perspectives and contributions. The book will hopefully also help mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts to open up opportunities for the girls in their family to consider more career choices, including engineering!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

TRIGGER WARNING: this post discusses actual violence against women, specifically the story of the École Polytechnique Massacre. There's little graphic detail here, but several of the links in this post contain fairly disturbing information.

In Canada, December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The day was chosen as a memorial to those killed in the École Polytechnique Massacre, which happened on December 6, 1989. On that day, a lone gunman walked into the school and killed 14 people, injuring more, before turning the gun on himself. He claimed that feminists had ruined his life and that the young women engineers he targeted must be feminists because of their non-traditional career choice.

Members of CU-WISE, GSA, IEEE WIE, Womyn's Center, Foot Patrol, and MEN were out in the unicentre on Dec 3rd to raise awareness of the issues, and to raise money for a pair of women's shelters in the area which burned down. At 1pm, we held a candlelight ceremony in the unicentre:

After the ceremony, we showed the new film, Polytechnique. I made the mistake of staying to watch part of it. Not that it is a poorly done film, but I found it quite deeply disturbing. Mark Lepine's suicide note actually sounds too much like the death threats I, and many other women involved in the open source community, have received from another deranged individual (trigger warning: the link is to a post which discusses some of the vile stuff he says). And after watching part of the film, I then had to walk through Carleton's halls, which share some of the same institutional feel to the hallways of École Polytechnique. I will caution that this film can be highly disturbing, and note that I will likely never watch the rest of it.

However, despite my misgivings with the film, and the unpleasant feelings that come with marking the date of the Montréal Massacre, I think it was a great opportunity to talk to some of our wider university community about the history and the issues.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Wonders of Social Networking

This post was written by Opportunities Officer Laura Mutu.

Last Tuesday I attended a CU-WISE speaker event focused on Social Media presented by Natasha D’Souza. I felt that I should attend since I am interested in exposing myself to good techniques of keeping oneself image in the virtual space, being at the verge of getting into the work force in my field.

Companies have marketing offices and human resources, but each individual only has 24 hours a day, and each of us needs to know a little bit of everything in the end to be able manage ourselves better. A lot of the communication today takes place online, and even if you think you know what it’s about, you never really understand all the consequences or all the opportunities.

What I found neat during the presentation was Natasha’s way of twisting the usual usage of a social tool, or just revamping some old technology, underused in the present.

Then, although I took good notes during her speech (without knowing I will end up writing a blog using them; you can imagine my happiness for finding them now heh), I also found the slides and a summary of her speech online.

Why I found that as neat? Well, I have a short spanning memory and it often happens that I go to workshops and create mental notes on the speaker’s slides, but then I can’t come back to review them, hence I take written notes. All that in the hopes that these talks will contribute to my growth and that it won’t just be an attended session, a check mark in my agenda, but I’ll make sure to actually absorb and check what the person was talking about.

Now, we’ll take a look at what I took out from the session, and hopefully, it will be useful for you as well.

When it comes to social bookmarking, a new way of keeping track of interesting links online, also adopted by a few of the girls present at the workshop, Natasha suggests Diigo.

I personally use Google bookmarks, just because I like how simple and slick Google is.

As a general rule, whenever you save something, remember to register a few key words that might help you decrypt what the link/fact/person/picture was all about. We know we all think we will remember that something later, but as programmers know, it’s possible to work on heavy programs for months and then not remember anything about that little piece of code from the beginning. So, take those few more precious seconds and throw in the right words that will save you some grief later in times of need.

Some of the rules for right tagging:
  • should be searchable online, if public
  • create own standard of how to use it will take a while, like a couple of years, so start now!
  • make documents (scientific or pdfs) relevant to target audience

Natasha encouraged us to use RSS feeds to keep up to date with events or people’s blogs that we find interesting. On the reverse note, anyone maintaining a website should consider adding social buttons so that if visitors find certain info on your website worth sharing, they can do so right away. In fact, the presence of social buttons can just click a reminder in the person’s mind that your page is available for sharing, so they get an incentive to do so.

Alongside the popular blogs and Facebook notes, why don’t you try contributing to a Wikipedia page? It’s a great activity anyone can take on actually. MediaWiki has a few tags that you need to get accustomed in the beginning, but then it’s just your speedy fingers contributing content to the international community and the wealth of knowledge. Doesn’t it look great on your resume?
Especially if you are passionate about the subject you are contributing to, it shows that you are ready to go the extra mile; that you are also a giver, not just a taker; that you can share and give back.

If you are a little software inclined, even better, because wiki itself is getting quite old and looks like it would need some review to become more automated. So, get out there and see how you can volunteer in the development of this amazing website each and one of us keeps coming back to.

Blogs are available everywhere for you to share your passions, but it’s not as easy as you thought, is it? It takes discipline and goal setting; and about a year to define your style and get comfortable to writing for the masses. As strange at it may seem in this informational boom, it seems that there are not so many Canadian tech female bloggers. So start participating, find your own pace and rhythm, your inner voice, and give HR personnel something you want them to read about you.

Also in blog formats, e-newsletters can be tag-able and provide a conversation medium. Flipping the coin on the other side, they are great opportunities for you to start conversations online about things that interest you. You can give people an idea of who you are as a person and so, generate good, professional information beyond parties for other to grasp in the cloud.

Amongst the questions of the evening there was one that kept in creeping up: “Do you use LinkedIn?”

The reason is that LinkedIn is a very powerful tool if you keep your profile up-to-date since it is feature rich ( you can add Amazon books you like, your blog, twitter, website) and you can use it to participate and generate discussions, to demonstrate your expertise and differentiate yourself in job market. Recruiters and potential employers use it, so why don’t you? Found that event interesting, go ahead and give your two cents on why you think that is so. Provide feedback to your contact database and keep in mind that any person needs to meet another person six times before they remember each other.

Hmm, wondering how Facebook can be used besides sharing pictures and checking out your friends’ friends? Why don’t you start looking for something that is really important for you, like that company you like. You can become a fan of it and even start a discussion and share your views.

There is also, of course, the universe of the microblogs, such as Twitter, where you can quickly update people on cool projects and ideas. You can also try Youtube and contribute to video sharing and make Carleton, for example, more interesting with your own input, something authentic and original that would easy the marketing’s task, and improve your image in the public community’s eyes.

Other sites mentioned included meet-up and bringITon.

In conclusion, you need to realize that this is a new world we’re living in and you can’t control everything, and need to take things into perspective. If you put anything out there, it will be there forever, so if you don’t want your boss to read it, don’t post it. Everything is out there for the world, regardless your false sense of privacy, and people will always judge you. In the end, you need to take the time and figure out and try to see what is good for you.

Natasha was also kind enough to invite us to “Connect the Dots” Ottawa, an event where the various women organizations of Ottawa come together, and where she was to speak in a few days. I got to the opening evening which was really interesting and fun and all the women had a story to tell, I would highly recommend attending if you have the opportunity. You can read a lot more details about the event on their website and also on Natasha’s website: http://www.virtualeyesee.com/

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From the WISE Guy: YOU could be a female black belt

This guest post is from one of CU-WISE's best male allies, Jeff Gordon.

I'm a big believer of healthy living with the aim of maintaining a good work and life balance. You probably spend a lot of time in front of a computer, a notepad, or a textbook. So, getting enough exercise is an important part of that balance. CU-WISE has presented yoga events in the past. It's a great way to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility. I'm an active practitioner of power yoga, so I can definitely vouch for its benefits. But my primary source of exercise comes from martial arts. I absolutely love it and you might too.

Martial arts are really a full body workout which not only works you physically but mentally. For anyone with an active brain, it's an incredibly stimulating activity that can challenge you in many ways. It's also a lot of FUN! You find yourself doing things you probably would never do anywhere else. In fact, martial arts skills are probably the closest thing I'll ever have to a super power. Not everyone can jump, spin 360 degrees, and break a board with their foot or drop down into the splits. Always useful if you need a party trick!

One of the biggest benefits of martial arts is an improvement of self-confidence. Even the strongest person (woman or man) has some self-confidence issues and martial arts can often address these in unexpected ways. It forces you to come out of your shell but in a comfortable friendly environment. A lot of martial arts involve working with a partner and these interpersonal skills are important to working with classmates, co-workers, and in a relationship!

There's TONS of literature out there on how to choose a martial art. And really, it's a personal choice. I study Taekwondo which shares many similarities with karate (and some similarities with kung fu). These are striking arts which focus on strikes with your hands and feet to an opponent from a distance. It's in these styles you'll see kicking, board breaking, as well as choreographed sequences of patterns or katas. If the idea of wrestling or flipping interests you, then you may want to consider the grappling arts such as jiu-jitsu, judo, and aikido. These styles involve using locks, holds, and throws to force an opponent to submit on the ground. Jiu-jitsu especially is the bread and butter of mixed martial arts and UFC.

While martial arts remains a male dominated sport, woman can and do excel at all styles of martial arts. I encourage women to give martial arts a try and apply the same resilience you have in science and engineering towards something completely different but equally as rewarding. Many successful women have achieved black belts including former U of O Dean of Engineering Dr. Tyseer Aboulnasr, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and actresses Lucy Liu, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kelly Hu, Tina Majorino, Evan Rachel Wood, Taryn Manning, Laura Vandervoort, and Brenda Song. Also CU-WISE itself has a number of woman martial artists among its membership.

Just like science and technology, I'm always very encouraged and impressed when women take part in an area that is predominantly guys. It's why I support initiatives like WISE. And if I've grabbed your interest in martial arts, I highly recommend giving martial arts a try. It could be the activity for you. Even if you tried it as a kid, consider giving it a second look or try a different martial art. I hated martial arts when I tried it at six years old but I gave it another go at 20 and I was hooked. So give it a try and see what happens. And if you do go to a class and some guys make you feel unwelcome, I will personally show you HOW to kick their butts!

Carleton offers programs in Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, Karate and Kung Fu on campus. Taekwondo is offered at private schools nearby campus and at the University of Ottawa campus. So now, go kick some butt! *bows*

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Connecting with my feminine side at Connect the Dots PJ Party

I had the opportunity to attend the Connect the Dots PJ Party on Thursday, November 12th and I’m glad I grabbed it. According to the website, Connect the Dots “is designed to connect all leading women’s networking groups in the Ottawa Region and provide an opportunity to NETWORK, COLLABORATE, BE INSPIRED and GET MOTIVATED”. The event kicked off with the PJ party on Thursday night (yes most of us were wearing pyjamas) as an alternative to a traditional networking event, and the conference workshops were scheduled for the Friday. I was not able to attend the conference on Friday, so I went into Thursday’s event expecting to network with other women’s groups in an informal setting and get some perks on the side, but I found that I was so busy with all the activities going on, that I didn't have much time to network except through an old friend I bumped into and enjoyed catching up with. As it turned out, I didn’t run into many people in the science and tech fields anyway, and most of the participants seemed to have come as groups of friends and weren’t really there to network, so that was a bit of a disappointment, but otherwise it was lots of fun.

The PJ Party theme, IGNITE your inner GODDESS, was about relaxing and getting pampered through booths set up from local businesses (spas, caterers, etc), presentations by a comedian and a sex therapist, a pole dancing lesson, and lots of door prizes. For me, the night turned out to be more about connecting with my feminine side than connecting with others, and I experienced several things for the first time: I had my first facial, my first hand massage, and my first pole dancing lesson. It was amazing to see successful business women and entrepreneurs jumping into character and strutting their stuff as soon as they got near that pole. My feelings of total embarrassment and inadequacy did not stop me from giving it a try. Talk about feeling like an impostor! As I’m a bit of a tomboy, sometimes I wonder if I’m more comfortable emerged in the male dominated science and tech world than the “girly” side of things that sometimes gets forgotten. I know I’m DEFINITELY more comfortable in my sweats and sports bra than in high heels and makeup, but every once in a while it’s fun to play dress up and hang out with the ladies, and that’s precisely what this night was for me.

While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I did have a lot of fun and I love the idea. I think this sort of event would make networking at the conference the next day a whole lot more fun. - ”Didn’t I see you swinging from a pole last night?... Why, yes you did, and I seem to recall you were the one with the gold pyjamas!”

I'd like to thank Natasha D'Souza, one of the speakers at the event and a CU-WISE presenter, for giving me this neat opportunity to participate in Ottawa's best girls' night out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Female Entrepreneurs Connecting the Dots

After CU-WISE talk of "How to use Social Media to Benefit your Career", our speaker, Natasha D'Souza from Virtual Eye See generously sponsored some of the CU-WISE attendees for the Women's Networking Event Connect the Dots.

I was very happy to know I was one of the 4 students attending this event. However, I was a little surprised when I searched for the schedule and I saw that the first event was a PJ party :-) and I didn't know if it was literally a PJ party until I saw this video with Mary Cavanagh and Laura Brooker promoting the event. Mary was actually wearing her PJs on TV!

So, I prepared my PJs and arrived to the event. I have to say that in the last couple of year's as an executive of CU-WISE and WISE Ottawa I have been fortunate to participate in many networking events, but this one was out of the ordinary! Not only because we could be pampered with massages and facials, but also because you feel like being with girlfriends and honestly, once you're wearing your PJs, all communications barriers are down. I felt so comfortable talking to other people, not as frightening as business networking event seem to appear for WISE women. So, if you're organizing a networking event for women, I would suggest to follow this example.

You can see more pictures about this event at the event's Facebook page.

Next day was full of talks and more fun events. Although this event was focused for Female Entrepreneurs, most of the advice and suggestions given by speakers and panelists can be applied to all women pursuing a career.

One of the first speakers, Lisa Lajoie talked about listening to our intuition, what feels right, and what really raises a flag. As a scientist and engineer, sometimes I forget about it, so this was a nice reminder. She also mentioned how we can be our own enemies and we can be our worst enemies. This sounds very familiar to the impostor syndrome and that feeling of boicoting ourselves that we've discussed in previous posts. Some of the speakers also reminded us to be authentic, know what makes you unique and share your gifts with others.

Lorraine Mastersmith from Women Entrepreneurs of Canada announced the Ask Campaing which aims to ask women where they want them to be, we want to help provide women the tools to make the “Ask”. If you would like to contribute to this campaing, you can answer this poll. She suggested some tips to ask:
  • Do your homework and find the people whom you should ask.
  • Make the Ask in a say to secure the Answer you're looking for (make sure you propose a win-win deal). Don't ask, offer!
  • Go with a Big Ask.
We also had a social media showcase, where experts in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Forums, Newsletters) including Natasha D'Souza made a short introduction and went afterwards to separate tables to show how your company (or your career) can benefit from social media. Every now and then, Maryse Senecal from Myo-precision would remember us how we can take breaks of 5-10 minutest to strech and release tension in our upper body. Some simple movements can go a long way when you're 8-10 hours in front of the computer. I have now programmed a reminder to do some excercises every 2 hours and I can feel the difference.

The panel of Ottawa’s Million Dollar Women in Business included Heather MacLachlan (Business Women of the Year 2007), Lisa Larter from Group which encompasses Parlez Wireless, an Authorized TELUS Dealership, and Lisa Larter Consulting. They shared that ont their own experience, is not about the numbers, or the million dollar in revenue, but doing things you're passionate about, giving back to the community and satisfying your standars, and not only your client's standards.

I would like to finish with some of the principles shared by Mary Cavanagh, Leslie Eisener and Cara Rose-Brown from Ignite Potentials:
  • Balance: there's never a right or wrong, seek the balance in all things.
  • Evolution: evolution happens between order and chaos, find the gift in the chaos.
  • Interconnectedness.
  • Focus.
  • Purpose.
  • Gratitude.
For more blog posts about this event, you can check out the official Connect the Dots blog.

It was nurturing and empowering to meet all these women that shared her experience and advice with us. If you are thinking about being an Entrepreneur, I would encourage you to attend Connect the Dots 2010, which will take place in the Hotel Crowne Plaza in Ottawa and check out some of the Women's Newtorking Groups participating.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Being Smart Around Campus

As a university student I don’t usually look for bed bugs or bogey monsters anymore. But being little more than five foot and if I’m honest not as strong as I’d like to think, it does sometimes occur to me when I’m wandering around by myself in the dark that it might not be the smartest move I’ve ever made. The following three programs are ones that not many students either know about or realise are free to use and in place for you to use just to get rid of those nagging feelings.

Foot Patrol and Safe Walks

I always felt like I wasn’t going far enough for it to be worth calling or that I’d be bothering them. But last year I joined up as a patroller and realised just how wrong I had been. Patrollers aren’t getting paid so you’re not wasting anyone’s money that could have been spent elsewhere and as volunteers they are there because they want to be. Not because they feel the need to defend people from the horrors of campus after dark fall, they sign up because it’ll be a nicer way to get some exercise or volunteer hours then running on a treadmill or cutting grass.

They stay because they find it’s a great way to meet new people and genuinely enjoy doing it. You never have to give anyone your name or identify yourself to the patrollers, even though many will give you their names. The only records kept are of the date and time of the safe walk and the locations. And if you are being dropped off at a house off campus the patrollers only report the street names of an intersection a few blocks away so even the dispatcher can’t discover your address.

Patrollers sign up in advance for a three hour shift so regardless of how many calls they get they’ll still be spending that time walking around campus. And honestly I always found it far more enjoyable on nights with more safe walks rather than just patrolling circles around campus.

Safe walks are available 6 pm-midnight Monday to Friday by calling office at 613-520-4066. If you know you’re going to be leaving at a certain time you can even call to book in advance so you don’t have to wait for the patrol to get there. You can also show up at the office on the fourth floor of the university centre or flag a patrol as they go by (they always wear bright blue vests or navy coats that are clearly labelled so you can recognize them).

Late Night Program

For people who are working alone after normal hours this service is a good way to let someone know where you are, just in case anything should happen. By making Campus Safety aware of your location they are able to check in with you on their rounds throughout the evening. You can also get an emergency assistance button so that you can instantly alert safety if you need to.

Arrange by calling University Safety at 613-520-3612

Rape Aggression Defence Program

Another program run by campus safety, R.A.D. is a women’s only awareness, prevention, risk reduction, risk avoidance program. It also includes an optional basic hands-on physical defence training session. Not only is this a free program, participants are also allowed to attend any future sessions free of charge for refreshers.

Upcoming dates: November 21, February 10, March 20, April 24.

Register online for R.A.D.

I’ll post a larger list of other campus services that are nice to know about in a few days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Use Social Media to Benefit Your Career

I attended the CU-WISE November speaker event on Tuesday and wrote about it in my blog. It was about how you can use social media to benefit your career. I hope we'll find several posts about reactions to the event here on the CU-WISE blog as event attendees become motivated to start creating their online image. :)
Carleton's Women in Science and Engineering's November guest speaker event last night was about How to Use Social Media to Benefit Your Career. With a general theme of "just do it," our guest speaker Natasha D'Souza of VirtualEyeSee explained how to get our names out on the social web, and why we should care.
Read the entire post here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teach Yourself to Program

While there are definitely computer science and engineering students in CU-WISE, not all of us know how to program super well (or at all). I ran into a nice little article from Life Hacker called Programmer 101: Teach Yourself How to Code, which gives a few tips on how you can get started.

Why learn programming if you don't need to? I can think of a few reasons:
  • It's a fun challenge.
  • It helps exercise the logic part of your brain.
  • You can work on your problem-solving abilities.
  • You can use your new skills to make a game, website, or other fun project.
  • When you create a program that does something cool, you can show your family!
  • You might need to know some basics in a future job. For example, scientists and mathematicians sometimes need to use programs like Matlab, and knowing how to write code can make your Matlab lives so much easier!
If the suggestions of learning a real programming language is daunting at first, try Scratch and then move on to something like Python. You might be surprised at what you can do.

How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn't.

We all know there's a huge gender gap in science and engineering. There are lots of theories that purport to explain this, but one I hear frustratingly often is that women score slightly lower on math tests. "Oh, it's statistically proven that women are worse in math than men, so that's why there aren't more women in computer science." Or engineering. Or technology. Or open source software.

It sounds like a compelling reason, and it gets a lot of play. Except, you know what? It’s a lie.

My first degree is in mathematics. So I looked up the studies. I did the math. And it just didn't add up. The research into biologically-linked ability is fascinating, but it simply isn't significant enough to explain the huge gender gap we see in the real world. I used to do this presentation on the back of a napkin for people who tried to spout this misconception to my face, and I finally put it online:

Love it? Hate it? Learn something? Catch the Mathnet reference? Let me know.

These slides have also been posted at my personal blog, geekfeminism.org, and GHCBloggers. They've been impressively popular on facebook and twitter too, and even got used recently in Kirrily Robert's keynote at ApacheCon. Please feel free to keep passing them on, and I'm sorry I didn't think to post them here sooner!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Upcoming Event on Social Media

I am happy to inform you that Natasha D'Souza has been invited by CU-WISE to speak about the use of social media as an effective tool in the professional world.

Since she has worked in this domain for the past six years, combined with her 13 years of hi-tech knowledge, her experience in marketing, project management, business development and sales and having worked for Fortune 500, mid-sized and start-up companies, it is no wonder why CU-WISE has invited her this Nov. 10th to speak to students about this hot subject.

She is also the founder of VirtualEyeSee , a Social Media Agency that handles all fields related to Social Media Campaigns. Their services encompass training, consulting, web development, PR, graphic design, copywriting and digital media services. These services are usually geared towards companies of all sizes to improve communications via the use of social media tools.

The exact theme to be discussed will be the following: "How to use Social Media to Benefit Your Career".

I find that this will be useful especially for students as we tend to use social media technologies with our friends and family members alike. As powerful as these are, it seems logical that we cannot use these same technologies in the same manner if we are to seriously consider continuing their use as we progress towards a professional career.

For example, you may not want to share every little detail of your private life with your coworkers or managers if you add them as friends to your social network. A lot of examples will be provided during the speech that will illustrate this interesting point.

As such, I encourage you to attend it. The event will take place Tuesday November 10th at 3165 Mackenzie, Carleton University and will start from 6 PM.

Hope to see you there.

Dot Diva: New Program to Improve Computing's Image to Girls

Some CU-WISE members had the opportunity to meet one of the women from the Dot Diva initiative while at Grace Hopper this year in Tucson. We met up for dinner the night before the conference kicked off and had a good discussion about the image of computing as young women see it. We all believed that changing this image would make a significant impact to the number of women considering computer science as a career. We need the CS equivalent to the forensic scientists in CSI!

ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

Dot Diva: New Program to Improve Computing's Image to Girls
ACM Press Room, October 2009
Dot Diva, formerly known as New Image for Computing, is an initiative of ACM and the WGBH Educational Foundation to improve the image of computer science among college-bound high school girls. The Dot Diva program is inviting participation of students, faculty and interested others via recruiting, nominations and an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. Ignite Talks, a new component of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), recently included a presentation on Dot Diva to raise awareness of efforts aimed at improving the public perception of computing among women.

Through a national research survey, effective messages were identified and the next phase of research tested different branding concepts with girls, each based on different graphic treatments and variations of the messaging. Dot Diva emerged as the concept with the most powerful appeal. The overall messaging of the program is that “Dot Divas” are the new face of computing. They believe in the potential of computing to redesign the future and build a better world. They're young women with the power and passion to make a difference. The Dot Diva website recently highlighted the following announcements: registration for the She’s Geeky event in Washington, DC; nominations for 2010 Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows; and the launch of a new campus forum for women interested in math and science at the University of Richmond.
Click Here to View Full Article

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Girl Effect Phenomenon

A long time interested in women's issues especially when it comes to education, I would always hear from non-profit organizations and charities working in the developing world that an investment in women usually brings better results in sustaining development. Let me illustrate. A woman in the developing world has usually a family to take care of. If this woman happens to gain an income, she invests 90 percent of it back into her family compare to a man who would only invest between 30 to 40 percent. 1

Also, stats prove that education in girls increase their potential wages by 10 to 20 percent (with one extra year in primary school) and 15 to 25 percent (with one extra year in secondary school). 2

I didn't know the details in these figures but having been in the midst of non-profit organizations and charities (either by working or volunteering for them), I was aware of this fact.

However I was recently reminded by this fact through my renewed interest in this issue (although never gone but a little faded over the past 5 years or so) by my involvement with CU-WISE. I was also listening to one of my favourite radio programs on Radio-Canada called Christiane Charette en direct which usually talks about news of the day ( both quirky and serious), when a topic that was discussed caught immediately my attention: The Girl Effect. I have done a bit of research and was able to trace this phenomenon to a website which I would recommend you to visit: www.girleffect.org. Founded by the Nike Foundation in partnership with the Novo Foundation, United Nations Foundation, and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls (to name a few), this movement is designed to consolidate all efforts towards empowering women in order to bring sustaining development in third world countries.

But what I found most interesting was the link made by this organization. Girls in the developing world especially when they reach adolescence have two possibilities. One, they generally get married, do not get any education, get pregnant and have kids very early on and are extremely vulnerable to HIV (either by their husband, or rape if we are dealing with a warring state). Now if we change the situation and offer them the means to get an education, then the whole picture is completely different. Getting an education furthers the possibility to get an income which the families will benefit from. Furthermore, as bringer of income, the status of these women are then better respected which allows them to influence decisions affecting women; this in turn increases and encourages a better living environment for other women and girls, including better opportunities for them to get educated. This contributes to thriving communities, more money for sanitation and as more educated women have families, they are better equipped to prevent the spreading of HIV/AIDS. The end result: healthier, peaceful, stable and economically thriving communities.

And all of this because an investment was made on girls and women. What fascinated me was that I was aware of all of the potential results in investing in girls and women. However, I always failed to make this easy and logic connection.

Now imagine if this simple solution was applied to the following stats:

• Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
(Cynthia B. Lloyd, ed., Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries [Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2005].)

• Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
(Human Rights Watch, “Promises Broken: An Assessment of Children’s Rights on the 10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/crp/promises/education.html [December 1999].)

Below you will find all of the partners part of this Coalition:

Nike Foundation: www.nikefoundation.org

Novo Foundation: www.novofoundation.org

United Nations Foundation: www.unfoundation.org/global-issues/women-and-population/investing-adolescent-girls.html

Coalition for Adolescent Girls: www.coalitionforadolescentgirls.org

International Center for Research on Women: www.icrw.org

Population Council: www.popcouncil.org

CARE & CARE Canada: www.care.org & www.care.ca

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood: www.whiteribbonalliance.org

Center for Global Development: www.cgdev.org

Plan: www.plan-uk.org/becauseiamagirl & www.becauseiamagirl.ca

Global Business Coalition: www.gbcimpact.org

BRAC: www.brac.net

These groups offer many ways to get involved and I for one will try to see how I can support this wonderful initiation.


1 Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.
2 George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].

Monday, October 26, 2009

Want to Build Your Professional Network? Attend a Conference!

We've told you all about our Grace Hopper experiences here on the CU-WISE blog, but we don't talk a lot about other conferences. I went to an academic conference last week and wanted to tell you all about my experience.

The conference was called the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality, or ISMAR for short. I went because I intend to research augmented reality during my PhD, and wanted to start building my ties with the community. My first step in making it to Orlando was to apply to become a student volunteer. Luckily, I was accepted, so my hotel and registration were paid. My thesis supervisor then agreed to pay my airfare, and Carleton's Student Activity Fund will cover my food expenses. So basically I got a free trip out of the deal - not bad!

Volunteering is the single best way to meet people at a conference, especially if you attend alone. You often get paired up with another volunteer in your hotel room, like I did.

My roommate Stephanie.

I also met friendly conference attendees as I helped them figure out their registration or answered their questions about where to go next. This is such a superb way to build your professional network, and truly integrate yourself into a particular community.

I felt so inspired after seeing the talks over four days. There were amazing keynotes, such as Mark Mine from Disney Imagineering:


There were also a lot of cool demos from technologists and artists alike, which gave me a more immediate sense of what I might be able to accomplish. (You can click through the images below to get a brief description.)

ISMAR09-23 ISMAR09-28
ISMAR09-31 ISMAR09-39

Best of all, I was able to attend a workshop on experiential learning using augmented reality. Since I want to also do educational games for my research, this was a must-see!

Check out my ISMAR09 posts on my personal blog if you are interested in the learning workshop, the mobile augmented reality games tutorial, or a taste of some of the human factors papers presented at the conference.

The next time you hear about a conference on a topic that interests you, try attending as a volunteer and build that professional network! It will be so worth it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

People aren't very good at predicting what will make them happy

Cutting-edge research shows that people aren't very good at predicting what will make them happy. In my own experience, that explains a lot. So I'm hoping this article, titled "Psychologists now know what makes people happy", will help me understand it more. I recommend reading the whole article (which I found from more than one source, such as this one). But if you prefer a quick run through, here are snippets I found most interesting:
- The happiest people spend the least time alone. They pursue personal growth and intimacy; they judge themselves by their own yardsticks, never against what others do or have.

- A person's cheer level is about half genetic.

- Plenty of healthy people take their health for granted and are none the happier for it... Meanwhile, the sickly often bear up well, and hypochondriacs cling to misery despite their robust health.

- Life satisfaction occurs most often when people are engaged in absorbing activities that cause them to forget themselves, lose track of time and stop worrying.

- Everyone has "signature strengths"... and the happiest use them.

- Gratitude has a lot to do with life satisfaction, psychologists say. Talking and writing about what they're grateful for amplifies adults' happiness, new studies show. Other researchers have found that learning to savor even small pleasures has the same effect.

- Forgiveness is the trait most strongly linked to happiness.

- In pursuing happiness... we should have more trust in our own resilience and less confidence in our predictions about how we'll feel. We should be a bit more humble and a bit more brave.
Good luck in your journey to find real happiness!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Advice for undergraduate students

I recently re-wrote last year's "Advice for Undergraduate Students" document on helpful tips and advice about University life because the transition from high school to university can be a challenging experience. It's amazing how much more I have to say after only one year of CU-WISE and grad school. I included a few snippets from the document below and I strongly encourage you to check out the entire document. It can be found on our website under "Planet WISE" here.

The Carleton Student Academic Success Center (SASC) stated that the number one academic problem students face is procrastination. I am not surprised at all as I’ve been there and so has everyone else I studied with.

Attending class is important (and please remember to put your cell phone on silent and don’t answer it in class!). A survey done by engineers concluded that there is a direct correlation between the DFW (Drop Failure Withdrawal) rate and low class attendance.

There are plenty of ways to get help in your courses other than using the Internet or relying on your notes and textbooks. Talking to your classmates, your professor, your TA, etc. is very important as well. I don’t know how I would have survived university if it wasn’t for these resources and, many times, I felt I learned the most by discussing course material with my classmates.

Many students make the mistake of putting very little effort into their assignments. They copy some, they don’t do others, and when they do them and get a poor mark, they never look at them again. This is a big mistake. Someone once told me that by not doing your homework, you effectively lower your GPA by 7.

Getting involved is something I didn’t do in my undergrad and I thoroughly regret it. It would have made my university experience fuller and much more rewarding. I know it might seem like between classes and assignments there isn’t much time for anything else, but it’s worth it to make time for activities outside of classes. Not to mention the energy you get from being involved in extracurricular activities that you love will make you more productive!

There is one textbook I would recommend for every engineering student. It basically has all the mathematical relations you will need in undergrad in one book. It’s called “Schaum’s Outlines: Mathematical Handbook of Formulas and Tables”. Mine is a second edition by Murray Spiegel and John Liu, and I still use it to this day.

Be sure to apply to all the scholarships you can. There are often scholarships designed to encourage women to continue pursuing science or engineering. Check out the list of scholarships available on the CU-WISE website.

Take advantage of the services at Carleton University. Honestly, I wish I had taken even more advantage of them.

On behalf of CU-WISE, I wish you all the best of luck in your studies and don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Feel free to leave comments below.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to build your communication skills

The following post is based on a blog I wrote on the Grace Hopper Women in Computing blog here.

Communication skills are very important. I can't stress that enough. I recently graduated with a master's degree and have been looking for a job for several months now and I've seen it: employers want you to have communications skills. If you are very smart but you can't communicate or get along with others, you are of no use to them.

In my opinion, you can read about communication all you want but it still won't be the same as actually putting it into practice. What I recommend is, whenever you can, do presentations, network, write blogs or e-mails or articles... even if you don't want to. That's why I decided to become External Affairs Executive of CU-WISE. I did it because I was an introvert and I wasn't a great communicator. Not to mention I never liked speaking to someone for the first time. It drained me. But after 2 years in that role, here I am writing blogs, speaking at high schools, networking at conferences, and promoting CU-WISE everywhere I go. By the way, a great way to socialize is to wear something goofy (like a funny hat), to be a photographer (approaching people by taking their pictures), or carry something funny (like the duckies in the picture). The CU-WISE executives approached her just because of those silly things.

There are different kinds of communication norms in different kinds of cultures. That is definitely something to watch out for. I remember I met a young Iranian lady through CU-WISE and she told me about a concern she had. She asked me why the males in her classes didn't take her seriously. I asked her to explain because I never felt that way in my undergrad. She told me that when she asks a guy a question about a course, let's say about a formula or something, he always ends up laughing or joking and never answers the question. I thought about it and asked her to explain exactly how she asks these questions. She was a very kind young lady with a very low voice so I thought that maybe she just didn't speak loud enough. In the end I found out that it was in her culture to not look a man in the eyes while speaking with him and to many people here that could show anywhere from lack of confidence to disrespect. I personally feel uncomfortable when someone doesn't look me in the eyes when they are speaking to me. I would assume that they just don't respect me or the conversation we are having.

So I would like to close by reminding you all again to practice, practice, and practice! Does anyone have any comments or suggestions about this topic? About the notes?

The Fight or Flight Moment: Understanding Why We Leave or Stay in Industry

The following is a short snippet on a post I wrote on the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing blog. Check it out!

Why do women leave industry?
  1. extreme job pressure and they feel isolated, lacking mentors and so on
  2. culture not women-friendly and they are still experiencing sexual harassment
  3. compensation and they feel their careers are stalled by mid-career
What can women do?
  1. work in a company with >= 10% women in management positions
  2. get mentors, sponsors (who make your accomplishments known), role models, and figure out your career paths
  3. work in a company with more flexible career track timing, on-ramps, etc.

The “F word”: The Uneasy Relationship Between Feminism and Technology

The following is a blog I posted on the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing blog found here.

In my experience, this session started a day early. You see, the day before this session I presented a BoF about support groups for women in STEM with my fellow executives of CU-WISE (Ottawa, Canada). My group presented in conjunction with MENTE (Mexico) and WICS (Vancouver, Canada). During the question period, someone asked a question I always dread to answer. It was about feminism and how it affects student groups. What surprised me next was that the first thing that one of my fellow executive members, Gail, did was pass the microphone to me. "Oh boy" I thought, and started getting nervous because I had so much to say and I didn't know where to start.

So here's my chance, but I'll keep it short. My notes on the session on the uneasy relationship between feminism and technology are included in the ghc wiki and in this blog I am including my personal perspectives.

Let me start with a definition of feminism. It is defined as "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men". It is not defined as hating on men, trying to gain more power than men, or anything inventive anyone may think. So let's clear the air. Feminism is what gave you a better life: gave you the right to vote, protected you from sexual harassment, and gave you more equal pay. And women suffered and fought to give you those rights. This is how I see feminism. To me it is a gift that was given to me before I was born and it is my responsibility to appreciate it and to continue attaining those equal rights. By the way, when I say "equal" I don't mean the "same". Women and men are different, they're just not quite equal yet.

It looks like I've already written a lot so let me finish off with something I don't usually talk about because I'm so busy defending feminism. I would like to talk about what I think feminists can do to shed a brighter light on the "f word":
  1. Join a local support group like WISE, MENTE, and WICS. I don't know what I would do without my awesome support group here in Ottawa.
  2. When you are ready, pass it on. Recruit and mentor others. Make your voice heard. Make sure their voices are heard too. Don't judge other women, support them.
  3. Help men understand feminism. Men are part of the solution and we need their support too. Marry a supportive husband. Talk to you brother or father. I know I talk about feminism with my brother's friends who are all in their 20's and in engineering. Right now they're busy going to class, reading textbooks, and writing tests, but they'll be in much closer contact with us in the workplace.
  4. Consider the possibility of scrapping the word and adopting a new one. It is much too difficult to change how people perceive it and I would rather if we spent our energy somewhere else.
There it is folks. Those are my brief thoughts and I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences on this blog. The room for this session was completely filled so I can imagine that there are a lot of women who would appreciate talking some more about it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Computer Science Education in the States

From the October 6 2009 edition of the ACM CareerNews Alert.

Computer Science Education in the States
Blog @ CACM, September 28

When the Kansas Board of Regents decided to eliminate computer science courses from the core student requirements, ACM and the CSTA intervened, sending the Board a letter recommending that they put computer science back in the core. Due to the way that decisions about computer science education take place -- at the state, rather than federal, level – organizations such as ACM and the CSTA find themselves responding to similar types of situations in other states as well. After reviewing how the Kansas education system works as well as the role of the Kansas State Board of Regents, the article takes a closer look at how and why computer science should remain part of the state’s educational system.

The move to support computer science education in Kansas came after the Kansas State Board of Regents decided to propose changes to the Qualified Admission Regulations, which ultimately determine student admission into state universities and community colleges. Previously, to meet these requirements, students were required to take one year of computer technology. However, a task force recently convened by the Board concluded that this technology requirement is outdated and that the content is being taught in other courses. Based on this conclusion, the Board is proposing to cut the computing technology requirement. It turns out that while the technology requirement was intended to be a basic computing literacy course, it allowed many high schools to develop courses with computer science content.

ACM and CSTA's concern is that if the Board eliminates the computing technology requirement students will focus only on the core requirements and computer science courses in Kansas will disappear. To ensure that Kansas' students are being exposed to rigorous computer science courses and not basic computing literacy, ACM and CSTA recommend that the Board update the Qualified Admissions Regulations to reflect core computer science concepts. Further, they recommend that Kansas establish a task force to review the state’s current science standards and how they could be updated to mirror changes to the Qualified Admissions standards. Finally, it is advised that "computer science" be added as one of the approved units in either the mathematics or natural sciences Qualified Admissions requirements.
Click Here to View Full Article

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dealing with Criticism

Academia can be a really harsh environment. I once got a peer review that claimed the research in our paper was "crappy." Not exactly professional language, that! The review was so bad that we had to laugh, but that doesn't mean we didn't take the criticisms they included seriously: the next version of the paper was accepted to one of the top conferences in the field, in part thanks to that reviewer's highly critical comments.

Criticism can hit people hard: I heard one woman crying in the washroom while her friend consoled her and told her that really, the prof who had told her off was being unprofessional. Sometimes when a TA tells you your assignment was terrible, when a prof makes fun of you in class, when your paper gets rejected... it's hard to know how to deal. Venting to a friend is not a bad idea, but sometimes you can do even more to build on the otherwise "crappy" experience of receiving harsh criticism.

So here's some tips from TinyBuddha.com on dealing with harsh criticism:

10 Ways to Deal with Harsh Criticism

1. Use it. If someone delivers criticism in a nasty or thoughtless way, you may tune out useful information that could help you get closer to your dreams. Put aside your feelings about the tone, and ask yourself, "How can I use this to improve?"

2. Put it in perspective. There are over 6 billion people in the world. Even though only a small percentage has had a chance to see your work, odds are the criticism came from a small percentage of that.

3. Acknowledge it isn't personal. If someone doesn't like what you're doing, it doesn't mean they don't like you. Their interpretation of your work reflects how they see themselves and the world. Everyone sees things differently. No matter what you do, you'll only please some of them.

4. If it is personal, realize that makes the criticism even less relevant. If someone doesn't like you as a person for whatever reason, their thoughts on your project proposal hold no weight. Your job, then, is to let them make their choice--not liking you--and stop giving them power to hurt you.

5. Turn false criticism back on the critic. If someone says something harsh, seemingly without merit, realize it speaks more about them than you. Your work is not the problem--their attitude is.

6. Look for underlying pain. When someone is unnecessarily cruel, they generally want to get a rise out of someone--often as a way to deflect whatever pain they're carrying around. When you see the pain under someone's negativity, it helps turn your anger, frustration, and hurt into compassion and understanding for them.

7. Look at the critic as a child. Most children are honest to a fault, yet adults take their feedback with a grain of salt because there's much they don't understand about the world. The same can be said about your critic; he doesn't understand what you're trying to do, and therefore is missing some of the picture.

8. Define your audience. Whatever you're trying to accomplish, odds are it's meant to help a specific group of people. If you're building a web application for mothers, criticism from a 65-year old man carries a different weight than criticism from a mom.

9. Take the opportunity to develop a thicker skin. If you'd like to help many people, you'll have to listen to a lot of others who think you're doing a bad job. It's the nature of reaching a large audience--a portion will be unimpressed, no matter what you do.

10. Challenge yourself to keep going. One of the hardest parts of fielding criticism is letting go and moving forward. Don't let one person's negativity convince you to stop what you're doing. Whether you change your approach or keep doing the same thing, keep going. No matter what.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tips, Tricks and Software for Keeping Research Organized

As somebody who naturally loves to organize, this session was close to my heart. Oddly enough, I didn't really do a whole lot of organizing for my Masters research (I guess it was 'simple' enough that I didn't need to), but I'm really excited to use some of this advice as I start my PhD. One of the first things I'm going to (finally) do after thinking about it a lot is setting up an SVN server on my own webserver.
Read the rest on my blog.

Have You Ever Considered Being an Entrepreneur?

I'm going to try doing this post a little differently. I'm recording information during the actual session instead of taking notes and writing it up later. Below I have the introductions of the panelists, some general session notes, and a few of the audience questions.
Read the rest on my blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lessons from GHC: Landing a Job and Succeeding in Industry

As a senior undergraduate about to transition from school to full-time work in three months, I’m definitely starting to feel the anticipation and stress of the competitive job search.

So what can students do to stand out from the crowd? Find out on the official Grace Hopper Blog

I am a technical woman!

New Investigators 2: Privacy and Social Software

By the time we were ready to start, the session was full, with people sitting on the floor and clustered at the back, and more people still trying to get in the door. As a researcher, I've got to say I was thrilled to see so much interest! Although maybe they knew something about the presenters: every one of the women presenting in this session was enthusiastic and passionate about her research, and it made for a fantastic set of talks.

The three talks were:

  • Julia Grace: Enterprise Social Networking: History, Current Practices, Research Challenges
  • Clare J. Hooper: Tugging at the Seams: Understanding the Fabric of Social Sites
  • Katie A. Siek: The Knot or the Noose? Analysis of Privacy on a Wedding Planning Website

Read about all three talks here on the official Grace Hopper Celebration blog

The Hopper workout: volunteering at GHC09

I summed up my day of volunteering as a Hopper in less than 140 characters on Twitter:

@terriko terriko the #ghc09 Hopper workout: 3000 steps while doing upper body reps -- also known as filling all the conference bags with neat stuff!

But if you want more than the twitter summary, you can check out my full post, with pictures on the Grace Hopper Celebration official blog.

But here's the last photo, featuring some of the CU-WISE women... and a cactus.

The CU-WISE women - me + cactus at GHC09

PhD Forum 2

I covered the PhD Forum 2 Wednesday morning.
As the mentor for this PhD Session noted, the three talks given really show the eclectic mix that can be found in computer science. This was the first time I attended these forums, and I tried my best to fill in the feedback forms as best I could with useful comments. All three presenters did a really good job and were really well prepared, so my comments were really only of small things!
Read the rest on my blog.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Travelling to Tucson and Sight-Seeing

Five of our Carleton University Women in Science and Engineering members flew into Tucson on Sunday, and got a chance to see a few sights on Monday. I wrote about this (with lots of pictures!) on my blog:
It's worth clicking through to see our amazing photos of cacti (and you can learn a bit about these amazing plants, too!). I'm also adding some photos to the Grace Hopper Flickr group, as are many others. Be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From the WISE Guy: Light Bulb Moment

This is a guest post from one of the biggest WISE supporters from the male half of the population, Jeff Gordon.

I recently found myself part of a brief, yet intriguing conversation about the relationships between the types of men and women that often find themselves in the field of science and engineering. Now being a guy, I've always tried to distance myself from the typical computer science male image. Sure, we're intelligent but often the attractive qualities end there. So I just tell people I moonlight as a male model. Image problem solved! But yet, there are still a majority of guys in the field whose "S" skills are doggin on my rep. By "S", I mean social. How am I supposed to fulfil my goal as the ultimate and smooth computer science playa? haha...I kid of course!

Now, most women in the field's "S" skills are quite normal. So being a minority, they really have no choice but to interact with the uninteractable. I'm told this is especially difficult when meeting someone new (arguably a slightly awkward experience already). Typically new introductions are a task of tuning frequencies to find the right wavelength for communication between two people. (In layperson's terms, you try crap out until something works.) When dealing with a person whose transmitter is broken, this can be especially challenging. By the way, where are the engineers to fix this problem?

A few of the women of WISE shared a few techniques with me for anecdotal purposes. Do they work? Well I don't know. But they're definitely interesting. My personal favourite is the hug approach. Hug a new computer science guy you meet. That definitely breaks the ice! Maybe I should try this on some of the WISE women at the next event? I can't think of anything that could POSSIBLY go wrong doing that... No? Oh well, I guess it's different for women. Still I realized how challenging this can sometimes be. I mean sure, I deal with these personality types too. But I likely have a better understanding of the male mind and so I have a bit of an upper edge in these situations.

I guess my point is that I had a little bit of a light bulb moment. For the record, I like light bulb moments. Naturally, I never really thought about these kinds of interactions from a women's point of view. But I felt it was an interesting discovery in every man's endless quest to understand the female mind :-).

Either way, us guys try our best to communicate (social skills or not). And women try their best to communicate. And somehow, we get the job done. Often with very interesting chemistry!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Welcome to Tucson Arizona... without your luggage!

Some of the executives and officers flew together to Tucson, Arizona from Ottawa, Canada for this year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. We flew from Ottawa to Toronto to LA to Tucson. On the way to LA, we flew over the gorgeous grand canyon (see picture).

Arriving in Tucson, we were pleasantly surprised by the warm weather, the cacti/pal trees (see picture), and the mountains!

Unfortunately, we're sitting here in our hotel without our luggage :( How are we going to brush our teeth? I guess we'll ask the front desk for some emergency supplies...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Experience Grace Hopper With Us!

There are seven CU-WISE members leaving for Tucson, Arizona tomorrow and Tuesday for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Some of us are attending for the first time, and others for the second. We're all very excited!

We've mentioned the conference a few times on this blog before (see tags GHC08 and ghc09), but once we leave for Tucson, we'll be blogging more than ever about it! So stay tuned to this site (or the official Grace Hopper blog) to experience this amazing event with us. And who knows... maybe you'll get excited enough about it to join us next year!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Student Support Groups: How to Build Them and Do They Work?

This post is also on the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing blog; check it out!

I'm part of a group of amazing women who are presenting a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session at 4:30 on Thursday October 1. It's called Support Groups for Women in STEM: International Perspectives:
Retaining women in STEM fields has been a challenge globally. Studies suggest that peer support, mentoring, and female role models help. This session brings together student leaders from around the world to discuss the strategies and challenges of building and sustaining support groups. Are these groups working? Surprising results from our research will be presented in this interactive discussion with group leaders.
I'm really excited about this talk. The five executives of Carleton University's Women in Science and Engineering (aka CU-WISE) - Barbora, Natalia, Serena, Lindsay, and me - will be showing you how we rebuilt our group. We started only a couple of years ago from nothing, but you wouldn't know it if you saw us today! We believe everyone can be successful in creating a similar support group, whether it be for students or industry professionals.

The second part of the talk is also going to be very interesting. Students from the Women in Computer Science group at Simon Fraser University and from MenTe (Mujeres en Tecnologia) in Mexico will tell us about their research on how well these student support groups are actually working.

Whether you can attend our talk or not, you can participate in the conversation! We have set up a website called Support Groups for Women in STEM, where we have posted all kinds of useful links and resources for you. We hope you will leave comments on the pages and come with all kinds of great ideas and questions in Tuscon!

Workshop for men (October 16)

I noticed this in one of the Carleton newsletters. Obviously, most of our members are female so this notice isn't aimed at us, but we do have a number of men who come to our events who might be interested, plus many of us have male friends who might be interested if we pass on the information!

Man Talk Workshop

This workshop focuses on how young men can take a leadership role in addressing issues of dating violence.

Included in the workshop are the need for clear, respectful communication in relationships, and practical ways young men can take a leadership role in addressing this type of violence on campus.

The event takes place on Oct. 16 from 8:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m. in Porter Hall. It's a free event for students and lunch will be provided.

[More information, including registration here]

I'm glad to see Carleton offering this, and I hope it's well attended!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why High Tech Needs Women Executives

From ACM Career News Alert for Tuesday September 22 2009.

Why High Tech Needs Women Executives
Computerworld, September 8
Joyce Brocaglia, founder of the Executive Women's Forum, takes a closer look at the opportunities available for women in high tech and explains why gender diversity at the IT executive level matters. As Brocaglia explains, many companies are beginning to recognize that gender balancing is good for business. In short, the corporations that are taking actions to identify, promote and retain high-potential women are reaping the benefits. According to recent studies, Fortune 500 companies with three or more women on the board gained a significant performance advantage over those with the fewest. Moreover, those companies with the most women on their senior teams showed superior growth in equity, operational results and share price.

The issue of women as leaders is no longer simply about equal employment opportunity, it's also a matter of smart business. In 2003, Brocaglia responded to the needs of executive women in the fields of information security, privacy and risk management and founded the Executive Women's Forum. What began as one-on-one conversations about gathering like-minded women together to build a trusted network has evolved into a community of more than 500 of the most influential women in their fields who have attended national conferences, regional meetings and interact through an online community. The community has been so successful since it is a "safe place" where women gather and are willing to be authentic in sharing their successes and challenges and discuss issues that they are wrestling with.

The Executive Women’s Forum has created a culture that is confidential, inclusive, empowering, inspiring and supportive. Each year the EWF holds a national conference where nearly 200 women gather for candid conversations, interactive panel discussions, and formal and informal networking events. It all leads to women getting to know each other at a much deeper level and building lifelines that last long after the event is over. Active members of the EWF are exposed to other women that have chosen not to "opt out" and have created their own path to the executive suite. Their career ladders more often resemble career lattices and members gain insight into how other women balance and attain professional success and personal fulfillment.

Click Here to View Full Article

Monday, September 21, 2009

Women with energy in an energy hungry industry

While doing some research on companies that are involved in sustainable and renewable energy (part of my job searching), I stumbled upon an article written last summer by TheStar titled "Women with Energy". What a neat title! The article states:

The first-annual event, called Women of Energy, was also about highlighting the progress that women have made in the sector, and the need to build a support network that also encourages female ranks to grow.

Why now? The invitation to the event explained it simply: "For the first time in Canadian energy history, there are three female presidents at the leading energy utilities."

And all of these women are based in Ontario!

from left to right: Laura Formusa, president and chief executive officer of Hydro One. Janet Holder, president of Enbridge Gas Distribution. Julie Dill, president of Union Gas.

Not surprisingly, one of the first questions asked of Formusa – the only one of the power trio with children – was about balancing a career with being a mother. "We have to show our children that moms can do it without killing themselves. That's why a support network is so important," she says.

Enbridge's Holder says it's a network the energy sector has lacked. "It's hard for women to look inside their organization and find other women with a similar life and values." Enbridge, Union Gas and Hydro One have agreed to take turns hosting the annual event, with an eye to building the network across Canada.

Somebody pinch me, I think I'm dreaming. Definitely looking forward to looking into this some more as I am quite passionate about sustainable energy, female support networks, and having a leadership role.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9 good bits of advice I've gotten as a student

I'm (hopefully) in the last year of my PhD, and along the way, I've gotten a lot of good advice from people at Carleton: students, profs, admin staff. Here's a few bits that I'd like to share:

  1. Making friends is important, not only for your sanity but also for academic success in later years. You need people you can trust for those group projects!

  2. If your TA can't speak English, complain. A few years ago, they made it possible for TAs to be sent to remedial English training. It's free for the TA, and they don't lose their future TA jobs, so you're pretty much doing everyone a favour by helping them learn to do their job better.

  3. It may seem that everyone else is way ahead of you in class. But actually, a lot of other people are just stupidly arrogant. You're probably way more awesome than you think, and other people are probably struggling with the same things you struggle with.

  4. Your course schedule may not work out every year. If you're in a smaller degree program, you might even find that it's not possible to complete your degree without substituting things because your required courses are offered at the same time! If you run up against a wall, talk to the undergraduate/graduate advisor in your department. They can help figure out what to do.

  5. If you have any problem with registration or any other administrative thing, make sure to talk to the admin staff in person. Our administrative staff is excellent, and they can solve a lot of problems that the computer systems deem impossible. Just remember to be polite, and try to show up when they're not busy!

  6. You can skip classes by challenging for credit. It costs money, but can get you out of stuff that would be a waste of your time. That said, easy As are great ways to buoy up your scholarship marks if you're willing to sit around being bored. (that's what I did in first year.)

  7. You can take upper year classes early, sometimes without prerequisites, if you're willing to work for it. Sit in on the first few classes and then ask the prof to sign the necessary paperwork when you're more sure, or just ask them for their advice. You can also take graduate courses as an undergraduate! (I did this, and it's how I wound up doing graduate school!) Graduate courses sometimes have an easier workload than the undergraduate ones, but you'll have to do a lot more independent thinking, so be prepared!

  8. If you're struggling in a class very early on, it's perfectly ok to drop classes and take them later. Sometimes the prof's teaching style won't mesh with your learning style and you should take it with someone else, sometimes you're just too busy with other courses. Before you drop anything, though, make sure you do it properly in the system before the drop date so you don't get an F, make sure you can take the class later or substitute another class, and make sure it's not a prerequisite that will mess up your schedule for the next term!

  9. Find a few good places to hang out and spend more time on campus. Having a place you can sit where you can let off steam with a game of cards, meet up with your friends, curl up on a couch for an hour, or even just buy cheaper snacks/coffee can be invaluable. I lived off-campus as an undergraduate and tended to go home frequently in my first year, but I didn't really find a love for Carleton until I started hanging out with the Math Society.

And nowadays, obviously I recommend you all join WISE, too!

So welcome to the new students this year! And for those of you returning, I'm sure you've gotten some great advice too. Got anything you'd like to share?