Thursday, November 27, 2008

Two CU-WISE execs as speakers at the NCWIE

In mid October, after going to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (, I found out that there was another conference happening in November called the National Conference on Women in Engineering (, hosted this year by the University of Western Ontario. I was very keen on going to another conference, especially since it’s right in my field and since the last conference was such a great experience for me. But I found out that the NCWIE was focused on undergraduate students and so I started thinking about how I can make a contribution instead of just attending. It didn’t take me long to think of my baby, CU-WISE. The wheels kept turning and I checked the theme of the conference, which was “Discover Your Place”, inspiring delegates to “look beyond what has been defined as the traditional roles for females in society and to challenge these stereotypes”. I thought to myself, how perfect! So that same day, I wrote to one of the organizers of NCWIE and asked if she would like me to present a session about CU-WISE and its successes. She didn’t take long to accept my proposal. I mentioned this to CU-WISE, and Gail didn’t hesitate to hop on board! Gail and I both love presenting, improving our skills, and we make a great team, so things were coming together quite nicely.

About a week later, Gail and I wrote up our bios and an outline of our presentation. It was titled "How to build a women in science/engineering/technology support group” and included the following,
  • how we built CU-WISE from scratch. Passion and good team work.
  • our mission and vision. CU-WISE wants to create a hang out for women in science and engineering, and introduce younger women to these fields while taking down barriers, perceived or otherwise. In the end we hope science/engineering will spark their interest and increase diversity in the workplace.
  • how we promote our group. It’s important to recruit your group in person as well as to build an identity, a professional/up-to-date website, and a strategic plan in order to make sure people take you seriously.
  • how we keep organized. Google groups, docs, calendar, forms, and mailing list.
  • ideas for events. Social, academic, mentoring, and outreach.
  • funding and support. We learned from the Grace Hopper Conference that you need to “ask, ask, and ask again. And if you’re not hearing ‘no’ enough, then you’re not asking enough”
  • travel to conferences. Networking is a huge part of life, you will get much further with it.

Gail and I took the VIA Rail to London, Ontario on Nov. 20th, and presented on Nov. 22nd. Our presentation is posted on The feedback we received was very positive. The students said that Carleton's success story with their WISE group was inspirational and informative. It was amazing to see about 40 students scribbling down notes and participating in discussions. The discussions also allowed Gail and I to learn from the audience. Some topics that were raised were:
  • male involvement (how their support is essential to our success)
  • how to create a website (we recommended using "Joomla!")
  • Go Eng Girl (one group organized a panel discussion with parents at this event)
  • Girl Guide outreach (an excellent opportunity to speak to groups of young females)
  • mentoring (one group described their mentoring program for first year students)
One other discussion topic was improving communication between support groups across Canada. The NCWIE session was very useful for the students, as well as CU-WISE, and therefore a means of continuing communication would be very beneficial. One student mentioned the letter written to Ontario WISE (Women in Science & Engineering) and WIE (Women in Engineering) student groups from Rebecca Gatto, ESSCO WIE director. Rebecca is looking to create a WIE network and database for easy information sharing between chapters. In response to the thoughts put together by the students, Gail and I decided to create a wiki called "Canadian WISE groups", in hopes of connecting women in science/engineering groups all over Canada. We found it beneficial in the past to work with both science (particularly computer science) and engineering students, therefore we decided to continue to do so in the wiki ( I let ESSCO know about this initiative in hopes of having them incorporate the wiki in their future endeavors.

I was very happy with the outcome of our presentation and hope to do it again. With hard work and dedication, CU-WISE is making a difference, and I'm very proud of that. I’m also thankful for everyone who supports this group.