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Getting more women into Computer Science

Trinity’s female Computer Science students are reaching out to encourage more women to study the subject at Cambridge.

Ana Dolinar, now in her second year, was inspired by other Slovenian students to apply and hasn’t looked back since.

I am so happy that I decided to study in Cambridge! It was one of the best decisions I ever made and I am really enjoying my time here.

Mina Šekularac, a third-year student, said the course, the teaching system and friendliness of College life made Cambridge unbeatable.

No-one cares about your background, your age – people here are really friendly. If you have a problem you can talk to your Supervisors. And you can have the great experience of talking to professors – some of the smartest people in the world – over lunch. It’s quite awesome.

Mina Šekularac. Photo Tamara Šekularac

Ana and Mina are two students in video conversation with Professor Frank Stajano, a Fellow in Computer Science at Trinity, who has set up ‘Frank Stajano Explains’ on YouTube. The Director of Studies is committed to breaking down any perceived barriers and encouraging more women to study Computer Science at university. He said:

Computer science is a fascinating subject for those of an inquisitive mind and we are really keen for more women to apply. There is great untapped potential among the many women who might enjoy Computer Science and do very well at it. And studying this subject at Trinity and Cambridge is a fantastic experience, as Ana and Mina will tell you.

Head of Outreach at Trinity, Jon Datta, said:

There has never been a more important time for getting women into technology-related careers. With young women totalling just 17% of A-level entrants in IT subjects and 16% of undergraduate starts in Computer Science, having female role models at Trinity who can advocate for the importance and excitement of studying this subject is vitally important.

Ana Dolinar. Photo: Markus Walder

Taking part in a group project with an industry partner has inspired Ana to consider a Master’s Degree and perhaps then conducting research, whether in  industry or at university.

Computing is so useful everywhere, there are some many different directions one can go. I am interested in data science and a lot of areas need a data scientist. I think finding a job should not be a problem. I really enjoy working with other people so I hope to be working in a group on an exciting project.

Not having visited Cambridge before her interview nor having the chance to visit the Colleges, Ana said she did experience ‘impostor syndrome’ on arrival – but then found that almost everyone else did too! ‘Everyone who comes here is actually smart and successful. After a while everyone realizes that.’ The workload is substantial but doable, says Ana.Even without much prior knowledge you can succeed if you put in the work.’

Mina discovered her passion last year – natural language processing – and hopes to pursue research in this area in her native Serbian. ‘The great thing about Computer Science is we can always invent new things or improve things,’ she says. 

According to Professor Stajano the skills you acquire studying Computer Science at Cambridge make you valuable to employers. ‘Our graduates are very much in demand and companies fight over each other to recruit them. A competent computer scientist will never end up unemployed.’

Every facet of today’s digital society depends on computers and computer networks, so the variety of fields to which you can apply your Computer Science skills is unlimited. From inventing and developing next generation architectures, programming languages and operating systems to working on new applications that put this computing power and communication capacity to good use, there is always scope for specializing into a branch of Computer Science that you are passionate about.

Professor Stajano said Cambridge admitted students solely on their ability, motivation and passion for computing.

When we decide whether to admit you, we don’t look at your gender, your social status, your skin colour, your nationality, the school you went to and so forth. All we care about is that you’re genuinely talented and passionate about computing. Cambridge might seem intimidating but, in the end, you’ll find that the other students are just regular people like yourself.

As Ana says:

If you get an interview, you will be able to talk to current students. That will show you that students are just normal people – there is nothing alien about them. They are smart but they are not geniuses!

 

New interviews with Cambridge Computer Scientists (undergraduates, graduates, post-docs, professors and industry professionals) will be published on Frank Stajano Explains throughout the summer.

Hear from Mina Šekularac and Ana Dolinar about studying Computer Science at Cambridge.

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