Queen's University

School of Computing tops in North America for female enrolment

Karolina Zurowska (top left), Anna Belkova (top right), Kathrin Tyryshkin (bottom left) and Wendy Powley (bottom right) from the School of Computing have been actively trying to recruit more women to the program.

The School of Computing has 35.8 per cent female enrolment, putting it well ahead of the national average and making it a leader in North America.

“I can’t see any other school – unless it has a specialized program – having the same female student numbers as Queen’s. It’s quite impressive,” says Wendy Powley, School of Computing research associate and adjunct lecturer.

A recent study found that 11.2 per cent of students with bachelor’s degrees in computer science are women and most computer schools have female enrolment numbers in the 10 to 20 per cent range.

Queen’s has surpassed those numbers in large part because of the Women in the School of Computing, a group under Ms Powley’s leadership that supports female students and tries to encourage younger women to consider studying computer science when they graduate from high school.

Low female recruitment can be blamed on the image problem Ms. Powley refers to as the “geek factor” – people think computer students sit behind a desk all day and write code. This is simply not true.

School of Computing Director Selim Akl is hoping activities being conducted at Queen’s for National Computer Science Education Week will change that stereotype.

Computers are being integrated into many other programs not normally associated with keyboards and laptops. The School of Computing offers programs in biomedical computing, cognitive science (which combines computer science with psychology, philosophy and linguistics), and computing and the creative arts.

“You can be an artist and a computer scientist; you can be a specialist in computer-assisted surgery and a computer scientist. The field of computing is bound by your imagination. You can do whatever you want with this new technology and that is making the field so exciting,” says Dr. Akl. “I cannot imagine an endeavour in the future that doesn’t involve computers.”

Computing offers men and women many career options, as the industry has gotten past the dot-com bust of 2000. Today, some fourth-year computing students at Queen’s are being offered full-time jobs even before they graduate.

National Computer Science Education Week.

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Last updated at 4:16 pm EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
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