Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A German Kiwi in Berlin
Ambassador: Annika Hinze, New Zealand

It is an interesting thing to visit your country of origin after several years. The New Zealand ambassador has just completed a six month secondment to the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Just as in other countries, women in computer science are a rare breed in Germany (less than 15%). To strengthen their situation, each German university has a full-time women's representative - some are called 'equal opportunity commissioner' so as not to discriminate against men. Additionally each computer science department has elected one of their female employees or students as a part-time women's representative. One can also imagine how every female faculty member (together with the department-based women's representative) is encouraged to plan girls' days, participate in never-ending appointment boards, run projects for women and so on. Thus the few women available carry a double load: They typically are torn between advancing their own career and supporting other women in Computer Science. On the other hand, a lot of women involved in attracting women to computing are organising these activities in their spare time or give up on computer science research altogether.

FiNCA provides a different solution. FiNCA is a project at the Adlershof campus of Humboldt University ( . The project's name- 'Frauen in den Naturwissenschaften am Campus Adlershof'- translates as Women in Science at Campus Adlershof. The under-representation of women at the science park Adlershof, especially in computer science and physics, is addressed by projects, series of lectures, girls-days, and mentoring initiatives. The lynch pin of these activities is Martha Gutsche, who is funded by the university to coordinate the FinCA projects. The main goal of FinCA is the creation of a female network that involves women at all levels: schools, universities and non-academic institutions. One of the recent lectures organized by the FiNCA club was a talk by Annemieke Craig, ACM-W Ambassador Program chair about measuring the success of intervention programmes for women in computing (

For the NZ ambassador, it is now time to go back to New Zealand to organize the 2010 Computing Women Congress (