Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Adding more Women Scientists on Wikipedia

This morning I was a little late getting to school because I was so intrigued about an interview with Sarah Stierch that was coming up on Q on CBC radio. I was so very happy that I decided not to miss it! Sarah is a community fellow at the Wikimedia Foundation and has made it her mission to increase the presence of women on Wikipedia. I was a little surprised to learn that only 9% of content on Wikipedia was created by females and the average contributor is a college educated white male. Wikipedia is the largest free encyclopedia and has become one of the first stops for information for many of us. I think it should also be a representation of the people who use it. I my mind, if the type of people contributing are skewed, than the content must also be skewed.

In an effort to increase content about women and by women she recently hosted a edit'athon at the Smithsonian where for five hours people got together to increase content about female scientists. What a great idea! Anyone else with me?

You can check out the interview below (the interview starts at about the 4 minute mark):

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Getting Girls Excited About Computer Science Education

The following is a guest post from Erin Palmer, a contributor to U.S. News University Directory a leading resource for computer science bachelor degrees, certification courses and online STEM education programs from accredited colleges.

For more information please visit

Ground is actually being lost in the battle to get girls interested in computer science. The “boys club” nature of the field has continued into the 21st Century, despite attempts to reverse the trend.

Women received only 12% of undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering from Ph.D.-granting institutions in Canada and the United States in 2006-07, according to a report from the Computing Research Association. That’s down from 19% in 2001-02.

This trend robs women of careers in fast-growing, high-paying fields, and it robs the computer science industry of the diversity of ideas and innovation needed for significant breakthroughs. To reverse course, we need to get girls interested in computers early on – even preschool isn’t too soon to start!

Why Aren’t Girls Excited about Computer Science?
The way schools are packaging computer science education may be the real culprit. Girls have the ability for computer science, but their attitude toward the field has been distorted by the “geek culture” that surrounds all things computer science.

The atmosphere in computer education – from the geeky décor of the classroom to the domination of boys in classroom discussions and the lack of women mentors – can be off-putting to many girls. It’s no surprise some girls see computers as boy toys used for video games.

Perhaps we need to do a better job of showing girls what computers can do for them.

Promoting Computer Science through All Education Levels
At the preschool and elementary levels, access is key. Teachers should ensure girls get equal opportunity to play around with computers. This can allow girls not only the chance to become comfortable using computers, but also foster a sense of accomplishment.

Some little boys tend to be more aggressive and enthusiastic about using computers than girls, pushing past them to claim the nearest or newest machine. In a chaotic computer lab, girls shouldn’t be left out of the action, relegated to the role of observer.

When girls hit middle school, peer pressure can be a destructive force and making computers the cool thing for girls can prove difficult. Educators can try to pioneer new ways to get girls involved by making computer science social, collaborative, empowering and fun. Adolescence is also when girls’ self-confidence levels can plummet, so we need to find new ways to make girls feel comfortable in their own skin.

High school is often when girls start making the decisions that will impact the rest of their professional lives. It’s important to strongly encourage them to continue taking higher level math, science and computer classes, going beyond what is required for college admission.

One of the best ways to make that case is to expose girls to successful women who work in a wide range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Never underestimate the power of role models like you!

Tips for Making Computer Science Appealing to Girls
Put the social in media: Many girls enjoy working together, and girl-only computer clubs can provide a fun, safe environment for them to explore and collaborate without worrying about what the boys think. Similarly, making connections and working with older female STEM professionals can go a long way in making computer science careers accessible to young women.

Access that appeals: Crippling budget cuts in education can make it difficult to get students in front of adequate technology. Once teachers have secured that face-time for girls, we have to make it compelling. Many girls aren’t as likely as boys to enjoy just messing around with computers. They want to achieve something. Let them choose the games and applications that appeal to them, and don’t be surprised when they treat computers more like tools than toys.

Encourage active exploration: We’ve all heard the jokes about which gender is more likely to ask for directions, but girls’ ability to ask for help isn’t always a positive. Sometimes they need to puzzle out a problem on their own. As a woman in the science and engineering professions, you know how integral that skill is to success. We need to push girls to take leadership roles, answer the tough questions and find solutions on their own.

As women, we know how tough it is to be a girl, but we also know that if we challenge them, many will rise to meet that challenge. If girls aren’t excited about computer science education, we need to improve the quality of that education. Of course there is more diversity within a gender than between them, but in general, girls learn differently than boys and different aspects of computing appeal to them. By being aware of those differences, we can tailor computer science education to appeal to girls thereby mentoring the future of our industry.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WISE Office Warming and Mini-social

WISE has a new home!

To celebrate and to break in our new digs, we had a small get together.

There was tea, coffee and treats...

... not to mention, some great company!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by. If you want to come and say hi, we'll be holding regular office hours every Tuesday from 12 p.m. (noon) to 1 p.m. and our office is located at 5270 Herzberg Laboratories (HP).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Environmental Friendliness Isn't As Hard As You Think!

I was thinking about whether we could consider ourselves green in our family after Natalie posted about Ottawa's Green Bin program.  It turns out that our habits are actually pretty good.  We actually do most of these things without even thinking about the impact on the environment, and none of them are inconvenient at all.  Perhaps there are some new ideas for you to try now or in the future!

Green things we do:
  • use reusable shopping bags and bins
  • refill sports water bottles instead of buying bottled water
  • drive very fuel-efficient cars, one of which is diesel (we don't have public transit in our rural town)
  • carpool to work (sometimes I drive with my husband to his job and then bus to Carleton)
  • line dry laundry outside (don't do this when it's snowy, but probably could)
  • cloth diaper our baby and use cloth wipes (it's actually way cheaper and easier than you'd think!)
  • breastfeed our baby (lets us avoid unnecessary packaging for formula)
  • buy used baby clothing (we'd do this even more if we didn't receive so many clothes as gifts)
  • fewer toilet flushes (sounds gross, I know, but it doesn't really need it every time!)
  • cook and eat whole foods (less packaging!)
  • grow veggies and herbs in the summer
  • buy locally from our farmer's market and butcher
  • compost in our backyard and use the result in our gardens (instead of the green bin)
  • keep our house cool in winter (18 during the day, 15 at night), and air condition only our bedroom and only on the hottest days
  • buy the best quality we can afford so we aren't throwing things out all the time
 What else do you do?