Thursday, February 26, 2009

Volunteer opportunities for National Engineering Month

Written by Rosalyn, one of our outreach officers.

March is National Engineering Month and Ontario has chosen the first week for most of its activities. This is the perfect time to get involved with outreach activities and showcase engineering to the public. It's especially important for us young women to show that engineering is a desirable career for females too. Volunteers are needed for events happening at Carleton and in Ottawa.

Here at Carleton, CU-WISE will be hosting a table next week in the atrium to raise awareness about our group. If you have some spare time to help host the booth for a bit, please email Rosalyn

The Engineering Student Society is also hosting design competitions for grade 4/5, grade 7/8 and grade 10/11 students on March 2nd, 4th, and 5th. Email Nicole Waldrum at or drop by the CSES office to volunteer.

Elsewhere in Ottawa, volunteers are needed for National Engineering Week to host drop-in K'NEX Construction Workshops at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, particularly in the afternoon on Sat. Feb 28 and all day on Thursday March 5. Email to volunteer. There may be reimbursement for travel expenses - email us to find out more.

Also, don't forget to attend the Elsie MacGill presentation by Dick Bourgeois, hosted by CU-WISE on Tuesday night (March 3). See our website for more details.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2009

I don't remember the first time I heard about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, but I do remember when I decided this was something I had to check out.

I was at a day-long meeting for one of our inter-university research groups. A number of the graduate students had been invited to give talks on our current research, myself included. The talks had been going well, and it was super-interesting seeing what other people were doing, since each university has a very different flavour to the research produced, even though we were theoretically under the same research banner.

During one of the breaks, I ran into one of the primary investigators in the women's washroom. We were the only two women at this particular meeting (a bit of an oddity for me, since my research group at Carleton has many other women!) and we got to talking about, well, girl stuff. Science-y, intellectual girl stuff! I love meeting other female resarchers. As we're standing there washing our hands, she told me all about Grace Hopper and how much fun the conference was -- a whole conference full of smart, interesting women, their research, their ideas! And then we laughed at ourselves, saying "Any minute now, the guys are going to phone wondering where we are and we'll have to admit we've been gabbing in the washroom like teenagers..."

And then her cell phone rang. We grinned at each other and hurried back to the meeting.

Anyhow, the call for participation in 2009 has gone out, and they're looking for people to give technical papers, panels, birds of a feather sessions, etc. You've got until March 16, 2009 to make a submission if you want, although apparently lots of people attend even if they aren't giving talks, so if you just want to check out the conference, you can do that too! It happens in the fall, Sept 30-Oct 3rd this year.

They also offer some scholarships, mostly aimed at students, to help cover costs. Those don't open 'till March 19th, but since you're more likely to get a scholarship if you participate, you might want to think about getting those participation applications in soon! And if you're a member of CU-WISE, we also have some funds earmarked for the conference, so you might be able to get some extra help from us!

This year will hopefully mark my first time going to the conference, but a number of our members attended last year, so if you'd like to hear some first-hand reports, check out their stories on this blog and then think about putting in a proposal for this year. Hopefully, I'll be seeing you there!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Surprise! Tech is a safe career choice today

Via ACM CareerNews Alert for Tuesday, February 17, 2009.

Tech Is a Safe Career Choice Today
InfoWorld, February 4

Despite the rising concerns about job security in the IT sector, technology remains a respected profession with relatively high compensation and solid job prospects. The problem, however, is that young people in high school and college exploring new career options tend to have a less than optimistic view of future job prospects. After exploring the new approaches that educational institutions are taking to fill the tech talent pipeline, the article analyzes the compensation and job stability numbers for technology careers.

Educational institutions are working hard to encourage college students to consider possible tech careers. As a result, enrollment in college STEM programs has seen an uptick lately. In regions such as Silicon Valley where technology companies are still willing to pay top dollar for recent grads, there has been an increase in student interest in computing-related studies. Other colleges are re-thinking their curriculum to attract students, such as by migrating coursework related to artificial intelligence and social networking to freshman-level courses. They are also introducing students to a wide range of possible careers beyond just software development.

Job stability within the tech sector is also a major draw. IT jobs continually outpace the national employment average, offering a sign of stability in a tumultuous job market. In 4Q 2008, tech workers posted some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. For example, the unemployment rate for computer software engineers was only 1.9%, while many other areas of computer science reported unemployment rates below 3.5%. Moreover, salaries among tech workers remain surprisingly strong. A recent Dice survey showed a spike in salaries late last year, despite the recessionary environment, with average pay increasing by 4.6%. In addition, the average salary for recent information sciences graduates increased by 12.9%.

Click Here to View Full Article

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mommas don't let their babies grow up to be engineers

Check out this article from IT World: Mommas don't let their babies grow up to be engineers.
More than 85% of students today aren't considering careers in engineering, a new survey found, as more parents encourage girls specifically to become actresses than IT professionals.
Really, eh? Have you ever heard of your girlfriend's telling her to hit Hollywood back when she was a wee tot? I know I haven't. Either way, that's a scary thought.

The more important statistics for us to consider are the following:
  • 44% of students polled said "a lack of knowledge around engineering as the top reason they would not pursue such jobs"
  • 30% thought engineering was too geeky or boring
  • 22% didn't feel their math and science abilities were adequate (I once heard that this is despite the fact that female students usually scored higher than their male counterparts - the guys were just more confident)
  • 20% of parents encouraged a career in engineering
As they say in the article:
"It's clear that there is a low level of interest and knowledge about engineering careers for both parents and children," said Maurice Ghysels, chair of ASQ's K-12 Education Advisory Committee. "Educators and engineers need to work more closely together to get students excited about the profession and spotlight interesting role models."
That's why one of the main goals of CU-WISE is to help young women see that they can do science and engineering. We know there are girls out there that have the potential to not only succeed in these fields, but to really and truly enjoy themselves in the process. We want to help them discover this potential. By participating in our many outreach activities, you, too, can help with this cause!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Google Canada Anita Borg Scholarship

Group Shot
Originally uploaded by Terriko.
Last year, Gail and I had the opportunity to go to a women's retreat in New York, all expenses paid. Not only did we get to meet fellow female students from Canada, but we also got to meet a number of women from Google, and attend sessions on technology, new research, and even work-life balance issues. And you know what they say about how Google folk always have the best food? Yeah, we were totally spoiled.

Want to know how you can get in on this this year? It's part of the Anita Borg Scholarships!

The Google Canada Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is intended to encourage women to excel in computing and technology and become active role models and leaders. It's aimed at senior undergraduate and graduate students. As one might expect for a scholarship, there is some money attached ($5000 each for the winners, and $1000 each for the runners up), but the real perk, for me, was that they do this networking retreat for all the finalists. While we're fortunate here at Carleton to have CU-WISE bringing us together, opportunities to meet other women studying science and engineering are rare and wonderful things. I had a blast meeting the other finalists and hearing about the challenges and opportunities they've had over the course of their academic careers.

I highly recommend that anyone who's eligible apply for the scholarship. It's an terrific opportunity to spend time with other super-amazing women!

The deadline is Monday, February 23rd, 2009. That might seem a while off, but you'll need reference letters and transcripts and I found it took me a while to write the short essays required. So get started soon!