Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Congratulations, Dame Wendy Hall!

ACM President Wendy Hall has been appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. Announcement of this honor was made by Buckingham Palace as part of the 2009 New Year Honours list, and it will be bestowed later in the year. More information is availabile in the press release from the University of Southampton.

From all of us at ACM-W, congratulations!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Women at the Brazil National Database Conference

Another small – but surprisingly effective – awareness-raising initiative was taken during the 23th national database conference promoted by SBC. During the conference (October 2008), we decided to have a picture taken of all women present who are doing research in databases in Brazil. The pictures that follow show the overall group (teachers and students), as well as just the graduate students. The third picture is interesting in itself – it shows many amateur photographers (university faculty) who were recording this photographic event.

Though simple, this initiative had an immediate repercussion in many universities. Faculty and students present during the conference became immediately aware of “something happening”. Some of them talked to us to understand the need for such a picture, and have since offered to help.

Notice that there are many faculty and few graduate students. Though this is another example of the decreasing number of women, one must remember that faculty, once hired, remain in their universities for thirty years or more, while students will stay for 2 (MSc) to 4 or 5 years (PhD). Hence, one would expect less female students overall – given that some of the faculty, like myself, have been active for over 25 years.

This research domain is considered in Brazil one that has been able to attract a larger amount of women – and, from the pictures, that really looks like it. There are far more women in databases, software engineering and interface design, in Brazil, than in, for instance, computer architecture. One possible explanation is that work in databases requires extensive human interaction, and discussions with end-users. The same applies to software engineering or human-computer interaction. This would conform to the hypothesis that women are more attracted to careers where there are more opportunities for social contact. Another factor concerns role models – given that proportionately more women conduct research in databases, female graduate students might be more attracted to the field, to become faculty in the future. Whatever the reason, the fact remains – there are many women still interested in conducting research careers in databases in Brazil, and we welcome newcomers!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

News From Brazil
Ambassador: Claudia Bauzer Medeiros – Institute of Computing, University of Campinas

Computer Science university teachers, in Brazil, are becoming increasingly conscious of the problem of the decreasing presence of women among undergraduate and even graduate students. As a result, a few initiatives are being organized. The first is the creation, in 2007, of an official event sponsored by the Brazilian Computer Society (Sociedade Brasileira de Computação) concerning issues surrounding Women in Information Technology (WIT). Interestingly enough, this event has attracted a large percentage of male participants, who are intrigued by this problem. The third WIT (WIT 2009) will take place in July, in the city of São Leopoldo, in the South of Brazil, being co-located with the SBC national conference.

All previous WIT (s) were also co-located with this conference, which is a very good decision, since it attracts every year over 2000 participants from all over Brazil. Hence, many people have become aware of the problem. Many of WIT participants are now actively promoting new initiatives to attract more women, and to raise the overall awareness about related issues.

One interesting initiative is to start a bimonthly column in a new electronic magazine, called SBC Horizons, to discuss opportunities and challenges for women in IT. SBC Horizons will be launched in December 2008, and is to be distributed to thousands of SBC student members. It will also be available on the Society´s Web site. I am the co-editor of this column, together with Prof. Sandra Fabbri from the Federal University at São Carlos. The magazine is geared towards undergraduate students, and covers matters related to job market, career opportunities, curriculum options and research challenges. Several subjects are also of interest to high school students who are considering career options. Hence, this column – called Bits, Bytes e Batom (bits, bytes and lipstick) will hopefully attract more girls to IT courses. We welcome suggestions for subjects and material to cover!