The University of Southampton

Southampton professor leads international dialogue on how to radically increase UK gender diversity in computer science

Published: 9 October 2020
Southampton students collaborate in the Software Projects Laboratory

Professors and Heads of Computing from North America and Europe will discuss how to dramatically increase the number of women entering UK computer science degrees in an ambitious virtual seminar series.

The six-part Building the UK Women into Computer Science Experience series, organised by the University of Southampton's Professor m.c. schraefel, will engage with computer science leaders in North America who have achieved 50 per cent participation by women on their courses.

As of June this year, the percentage of women entering computer science undergraduate programmes in the UK is 15 per cent.

Over 100 participants, including Deans, Heads of Department and Programme Directors, have signed up for the series, which is hosted by the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing and co-sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC).

Professor schraefel, Director of the wellthLab and the university's LivingLab, says: "It is well known that UK urgently needs to increase women's participation in undergraduate computer science. The first step must be to listen, learn, engage - and ask questions about how others have now successfully, consistently achieved this success - against this international average of below 20 per cent.

"This seminar series is a rare opportunity to not just read case studies but talk with the best people on the planet about how we too can make a real difference. It is really incredible that these very busy people, leaders in their own institutions, are all saying yes we'll participate in this series. It only further emphasizes the importance of having a conversation on this urgent topic."

The latest UCAS data from 2016 to 2018 shows that the percentage of women entering programmes has risen from 40 to 42 per cent in Physical Sciences, while the number has reduced from 16 to 15 per cent in Computer Science.

The six weekly online sessions will start on Wednesday 14 October and run to Wednesday 18 November, from 16:30-18:00 (local UK time).

The first session, moderated by Professor schraefel, will include contributions by Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College in California, Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, and Hank Levy, Professor and Wissner-Slivka Chair at the University of Washington.

The second session, examining the funding of research and implementation of best practice for broadening participation in computing, will be moderated by Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

"Over the course of the series we will also be exploring how to engage girls better in schools - and outside schools - and what we can do more when they're in our programmes," Professor schraefel says. "We have to take this seriously to move the needle - this series is an important start at joined up, best in class information sharing.

"The next step will be to take forward the learnings from these sessions to a next set of discussions and build up not just an action plan, but shared national actions we can commit to build together and deploy together for success."

The series is free. Sign up here

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