Women in Computing

Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) have been a CW member since May last year and on Monday 24th I caught up with their Marketing Officer, Fiona Kelly, to catch-up on the latest happenings on campus. The university has strong alumni links; just last week we saw an interesting spotlight article on ‘Pramerica Supporting Women in Tech‘  which had LYIT graduates speak out about women in tech and career challenges they face. LYIT have several tech volunteer groups, app societies and an initiative called ‘Tech Me Up’, a series of workshops and learning about how to integrate technology into the classroom.

With over 4k students from over 31 countries, LYIT is a hive of activity! Last month, the Department of Computing at LYIT opened its doors to over 500 people for the second ‘Women in Computing’ event hosted by the institute. Full story below.

The 500 strong crowd consisted of young girls from over 15 secondary schools in the county and Northern Ireland, their teachers, and leading lights from the technology industry. Paul Hannigan, LYIT President, opened proceedings and praised the efforts of the Department of Computing in organising the event and thanked industry contributors for their continued support and endorsement of programmes at the Institute. He further added, “Currently we face a talent crisis in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) industries; dispelling outdated or incorrect perceptions of these industries is key in closing the skills shortages in these areas. Targeting young female students to the technology industry, through events such as this, is fundamental in narrowing this gap. It is our role at LYIT, as educators, to support this information campaign; the growth in numbers attending this event over the last two years is a ringing endorsement that a change is coming.”

Large crowd of school girls pictured at the recent ‘Women in Computing’ event held at Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

Large crowd of school girls pictured at the recent ‘Women in Computing’ event held at Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

Dr Gertie Taggart, Head of School of Science, welcomed the attendees to the Institute, and she spoke of her educational background and added “It was because of my computing qualification that I got my first role in the education sector. I studied for a PhD in Chemistry and following completion of my Chemistry studies, I decided to study an MSc in Computing at Queen’s University. This qualification gave me my ‘first start’ in the education sector and I am thankful for this. Currently we have 600 students in our computing programmes at the Institute, with women accounting for only 10% of the student numbers. In an effort to target more women into the industry, the Department of Computing are delighted to announce a Bursary Scheme. This scheme will be available to female students entering a first year computing programme at the institute from September 2016. It is hoped to have between 6 and 8 bursaries available to the value of €1,500 per year, for 4 consecutive years. It is hoped that this initiative will support the drive to attract more females into the industry.”

Caroline Faulkner, senior managing director and chief information officer at Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd, told the audience that it is important to encourage girls and young women to consider careers in technology. “Industry leaders play a significant role in encouraging young women to enter the technology sector. We need to let young girls know that a fulfilling, exciting and varied career awaits them, if they study in the STEM areas,” Ms. Faulkner said. “Pramerica Systems Ireland is delighted to partner with LYIT and to participate in such an enriching and fulfilling event as this one. Spotlighting women role models the way this event does is important to the effort of attracting young girls to the technology industry. We must continue to encourage them to participate in programmes such as CoderDojo and we have to show them that a career in technology can be fun and rewarding.” Ms. Faulkner also complimented LYIT for creating interesting and exciting technology programmes and for its commitment to increasing the number of women in the technology industry.

Cathy McCann, Fujitsu, re-iterated Caroline’s sentiments and she further added, “Identifying the barriers to industry for young girls is so important. Dispelling myths that ‘girls don’t fit’ is a key driver in attracting young women into this industry. Encouraging curiosity, by continuing to organise and host events such as this, is paramount.” Cathy further outlined, “Parents have a very important role in this process, we also need to inform parents and outline the career paths available for their children, when choosing this industry.”

Following the keynote speeches, the students were divided into smaller groups, with female representatives from the tech industry hosting a ‘Q&A’ session, to outline their experiences of the tech industry. These sessions proved to be quite a hit with the students.

LYIT Women in computing - Photo Clive Wasson

Caroline Faulkner, Senior Managing Director and Chief Information Officer at Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd and Cathy McCann, Fujitsu both of whom were keynote speakers at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology Women in Computing event pictured with Thomas Dowling, Head of Department of Computing, Dr. Gertie Taggart, Head of School of Science and Paul Hannigan, President at LYIT

Thomas Dowling, Head of Department of Computing, commented, “Until recently about half of the students studying computing were female and nobody knows why this changed as Computing is not an industry that favours any particular gender.  The growing number of companies participating at this event outlines industry’s willingness and energy to encourage more women back into the technology sector. Female speakers from Randox Laboratories, Seagate, Gartan Technologies, United Healthcare, Sita, 8Over8, Allstate, Fujitsu, Pramerica Systems Ireland and Internetalia were represented at this event. We believe that the education sector plays a pivotal role in facilitating the link between industry and students. The large growth in numbers of attendees at this event demonstrates that young girls are actively seeking more information on this sector. It is our role as educators and facilitators to actively engage these young women and provide positive messages around the topic.”

For further information on Computing programmes available at the Institute, or for more information on the Bursary scheme, please contact Thomas Dowling, Head of Department of Computing, on (074) 9186304 or thomas.dowling@lyit.ie


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