Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Google Christmas Social

Free food!
Originally uploaded by Terriko.
Back at the beginning of December, Google sponsored a Christmas social which included members of CSES (Carleton Student Engineering Society), CCSS (Carleton Computer Science Society), CU-WISE (Carleton University Women In Science and Engineering) and WIE (IEEE Women in Engineering). It was a nice excuse to get the often distinct societies together for tasty treats care of Google (and the Richmond bakery... mm!) and some social time before exams hit.

Each group took the opportunity to talk a bit about upcoming and recent events before we went back to eating cookies. The societies are all pretty active and have lots of neat events coming up, so if you're looking for things to do on campus, keep an eye on all those web sites. Gaming tournaments, lectures, renovations, socials... there's a bit of something for everyone.

I posted the photos from the Google Christmas Social a while ago, but for some reason, I didn't add a link here. So here they are!

Happy holidays to all of you! Regardless of what else you might celebrate at this time of year, we can all be happy about the end of exams and a bit of time off before the new term starts. See you in the new year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

From the WISE Guy: Why should I care?

This is another guest post written by a male who supports the cause of getting more women interested in working in science and engineering: Jeff Gordon. This time he just wants us to know that there are indeed guys out there who want to help the cause.

I am not a woman.

I suppose I could go in disguise like one of the cross dressing guys from White Chicks or Mrs. Doubtfire in...what's the name of that movie? But somehow, I feel I'm better than that. Also, I’ve been told cross dressing characters always get discovered! Not a good plan.

So I come to this WISE space as a minority (1 guy) inside a group of a large majority (women). It's not unlike women in the profession of science and engineering where men make up the majority. So one guy in a group of all women about a topic specifically for women, this sounds like an episode of a sitcom or a romantic comedy waiting to happen!

So why am I here? Well ten to fifteen years ago I was a scrawny awkward teenager with a high pitched voice and lots of zits. At this time, computers were not cool like they are today. Spewing out the technical specs of my 486 were grounds for a pounding from my peers. I learned the first rule of computer club was: Don't talk about computer club! If you wanted to be popular and accepted in the 90's, computers were taboo.

Today, computers aren't taboo. They're cool for guys. They should be cool for girls too. But the number of women in computer science today suggests we aren't quite there yet. In fact, at least 4 of the 9 men out of 10 people in computer science agree with me. You women have stepped up to the plate to take the lead on this issue, but I think some guys should step up too. It's our responsibility as a community of professionals to make sure we are attracting and encouraging the best and brightest.

I've been wondering for years where all the women are in science and engineering. It's refreshing to see a group of women tackling this issue. As a guy, I hope I can help too. Guys make up such a large part of the environment of science and engineering that I think we can help out a bit too. I care about making a difference and showing that science and engineering is cool for everyone.

Geek should be the new sheek! I don't exactly know what sheek means but it rhymed with geek.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jean Bartik and the (Almost) Lost History of the ENIAC

This post was originally made on my personal blog, The Female Perspective of Computer Science. I hope you enjoy it. --Gail

I first heard about Jean Bartik some time ago after a few Systers were lucky enough to attend an event with her at the Computer History Museum in California. I forgot about it for a while until the official Google blog made a post about the event. From there, I was able to watch a video (embedded below) capturing the informal conversation with Jean, and I followed a link to a website devoted to the ENIAC Programmers Project. I feel so privileged to get a glimpse into the amazing history of the six young women who programmed the ENIAC, but whom history almost forgot.

Nobody really knew much about the women standing in front of the intimidating 8-foot tall black metal machine that was the ENIAC; in fact, many were told they were just "refrigerator ladies" modelling for the cameras. Luckily, Kathy Kleiman didn't buy it. When looking for role models as she herself became a programmer, she discovered the truth and sought to bring the ENIAC programmers' stories to life. With the help of an award winning producer, these women's stories were recorded and are now being transformed into an inspiring documentary.

One of the many wonderful tidbits in the video above is a story about Grace Hopper, who we all know and love as the namesake of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. As you may know, Grace developed one of the first compilers for a programming language. She was once having problems with a compiler and couldn't figure out what was going wrong. She asked Betty, Jean's pair-programming partner on the ENIAC, for some help.

Betty determined that the tape used to record data onto was the source of Grace's headaches. The tape would be used in one direction, then the direction would be reversed and data written again. The problem was that, even though the same amount of data is written in both directions, the tape didn't always end exactly where it started. Physical markers were used to indicate the beginning and had to be repositioned each time. Betty determined that Grace hadn't done this repositioning. Well, apparently when this problem was solved, Grace was ecstatic, and called Betty the best programmer she ever knew. :)

I think this video is a must see for every computer scientist out there, male or female. I know that I, for one, will be very much looking forward to the documentary when it's released.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Yoga: Sun Salutation

On November 20th, CU-WISE members gathered together for something a bit different: yoga! It was a lovely, relaxing break at the end of the fall term.

Yoga: Sun Salutation

It turns out that not only are my fellow WISE members smart, they're also athletic! Everyone seemed to flow comfortably from pose to pose. It was lovely to be part of such a talented group through motion and stillness. And it was amazingly beautiful watching everyone through my camera lens.

Yoga: Sun Salutation

If you'd like to see more of the photos I took, check out my CU-WISE yoga photo gallery. And remember, if I ever post a photo of you at a CU-WISE event that makes you uncomfortable, let me know and I'll be happy to take it down. (This time we gave a little preview to the people who had come to the event, but in the future I may just use my judgement in the interest of getting photos up faster!)

Yoga: Sun Salutation

I had a blast both doing yoga and taking pictures of everyone. I hope you're all looking forwards to the next CU-WISE event as much as I am!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

‘Twas the night before implementation

Originally seen here (but not sure if that's the original source).

T ‘was the nite before implementation and all through the house,
Not a program was working, not even a browse.

The programmers hung by their tubes in despair,
With hopes that a miracle soon would be there.

The users were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of inquiries danced in their heads.

When out in the machine room there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a super programmer ( with a six-pack of beer ).

Her resume glowed with experience so rare,
She turned out great code with a bit-pusher’s flair.

More rapid than eagles, her programs they came,
And she cursed and muttered and called them by name.

On Update! On Add! On Inquiry! On Delete!
On Batch Jobs! On Closings! On Functions Complete!

Her eyes were glazed over, fingers nimble and lean,
From weekends and nites in front of a screen.

A wink of her eye and a twitch of her head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

She spoke not a word, but went straight to her work,
Turning specs into code; then turned with a jerk.

And laying her finger upon the “ENTER” key,
The system came up and worked perfectly.

The updates updated; the deletes, they deleted;
The inquiries inquired, and closings completed.

She tested each whistle, and tested each bell,
With nary a bomb, and all had gone well.

The system was finished, the tests were concluded,
The users’ last changes were even included.

And the user exclaimed with a snarl and a taunt,
“It’s just what I asked for, but not what I want!”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A sincere apology from a Carleton student

As you may have gathered from my previous post, I am not entirely satisfied with the way CUSA handled their motion regarding support of cystic fibrosis research.

Unfortunately, as I am a graduate student, there is little I can do about CUSA directly. I didn't vote for them, and thus I likely cannot help get them removed from office. I can talk about my experience at the meeting and share photos taken at the CUSA meeting. But I realised tonight that there's something even more important I can do.

I can apologize.

So as a Carleton student, as a Carleton alumnus, I would like to apologize for the inaccurate and inappropriate statements about cystic fibrosis made by the Carleton University Student Union. These remarks have hurt a lot of people, and I hope as a community we can do better in the future, though it is hard to erase the hurt that has been caused.

I hope other students and alumni will join my voice in saying we are sorry.

CUSA Meeting December 1, 2008

In the past week, the Carleton University Students Association (CUSA) has made worldwide headlines for their decision to rethink supporting a Cystic Fibrosis charity on the grounds that it affects "white people and primarily men." This statement, contained in one of the resolutions passed last Monday, is not only offensive; it is also incorrect.

I attended the emergency follow up meeting tonight to see how CUSA and the Carleton community would handle the issue. And I'm sorry to report that from where I was standing, the answer was "badly."

The room

First off, the room was not large enough to accommodate all those interested in hearing the proceedings. Many students were forced to wait outside the doors, and we were told if we made so much as a peep, they would kick us out and close the doors leaving us entirely out of the proceedings.

From the outside of the room, it was nearly impossible to hear anything, as they provided absolutely no microphones for the speakers.

Both of these things should have been thought of beforehand. The university has both larger spaces (although they might have had to wait one more day so classes were done) and adequate AV equipment, and they knew this would be a popular meeting. As it was, I think quite a number of people turned away.

It felt like the room was arranged so that many CUSA supporters were in the most visible positions. This is likely because only insiders knew the full details of when to show up and get in. (I wouldn't have even known about the details of the meeting without the helpful computer science rep.) They acted like a pep squad, including waving and other hand gestures towards the councillors, which I felt were wholly inappropriate given the circumstances, especially since those of us at the edges of the room were getting constantly told to shut up or get kicked out. The security guards were just doing their jobs at the doors, but I did feel that things were disbalanced as no one shushed the inner circle.

I felt the crowd was about as well-behaved as could have been expected, and was dismayed to find that the shushing only began in earnest when the crowd wasn't all applauding.

I was carrying my camera and was allowed to squeeze to the edge of the door, so I was able to hear some of the meeting.

The proceedings

Two people resigned. Donnie Northrup because he had to -- he'd put forward the motion, and it was clear that he was out, so... well, I want to say he did the right thing, but that smirk on his face as he left the meeting made me think that he didn't have even the slightest idea of the hurt that he has caused. He remains an embarrassment to us all.

The second I think managed to leave with some dignity.

A CUSA rep resigns with dignity
Originally uploaded by Terriko.

They passed a motion to make another one of those "doublespeak" apologies that have annoyed people worldwide, making them feel like CUSA said "we're sorry you were offended" rather than "we're sorry we screwed up."

They defeated a motion to make a stronger statement. The rough wording was that "CUSA apologizes for the racist and sexist statements that were made, as well as the misinformation relayed about CF." The ensuing debate was an embarrassment to both sides, with the against side putting up irrelevant whining arguments about how they'd all been affected by discrimination and the for side going into an diatribe about discrimination that pretty much offended everyone in the room.

Very few student attendees were given an opportunity to speak. Obviously a lot of this was due to time constraints, but I they could have easily handled more people if the person in charge had taken a better hand in the debate, cutting off rambling and irrelevant statements. There were some good arguments, especially from the crowd. These were often overshadowed by the many bad arguments, many of which centred around the basic idea of "we didn't mean to be racist and sexist, so we don't need to apologize for that." And of course there were a lot of non-arguments of the "my dad has diabetes" or "I'm offended" variety. Colour me unimpressed.

The other motion they passed was that CUSA give at least $1000 to CF research, or up to $3000 to top up the fundraising already done so that we would hit a total of $40k for the year. While I applaud this in principle, I feel that it's inappropriate to ask the students to shoulder this cost entirely, and I sincerely hope that the CUSA reps take their colleagues' suggestions to heart and donate their own personal money or own personal time to help make restitution.


Overall, I do not feel like CUSA represents me, and they embarrass the whole university with their actions and lack of actions. I am happy that I was allowed to attend the meeting, and I feel they did make some important steps in the right direction, though stopping short of the goal. During the meeting, I often felt like the whole affair was a grudging nod to democracy and the media rather than a sincere apology from people who realised that they had made a very hurtful mistake and sincerely wanted to put things right. I am ashamed to be represented by people who were unwilling to swallow their pride and make the apology that the world deserved.

Monday, December 1, 2008

NCWIE: A Delegate's Perspective

One of our very own Officers, Katherine Knewcombe, also attended NCWIE. She wrote a guest post for our blog about what she experienced there.

The thing about conferences is you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll end up talking about. Along with Gail, Barb and a handful of other Carleton girls I was at NCWIE this past weekend. And it was a blast! Yes, we talked about low enrollment numbers and challenges WISE and similar groups face at various universities, but I also got drafted to a Panel being started by PEO, started throwing joint trip ideas around with girls from Montreal, got to hear about the first female Areo Engineer who ran Canada’s engineering department overlooking the production of the Hurricane Warplanes in WWII, and challenged an Engineers’ Union representative (who happened to work on Obama’s campaign).

I’m by no means trying to downplay the Women In Engineering (and Science) part of the conference. I ended up at Barb and Gail’s presentation and was stunned by the eagerness of WISE members from university chapters across Canada to not just grow their own school’s involvement but to work with other school groups as well. Barb and Gail managed to wake everyone up after we’d been sitting just long enough to start falling asleep and as soon as they started asking about differences between other groups and how they do things, or what events they like to run, we were off. It wasn’t a madhouse full of chaos, but people were cutting each other off in their excitement to give or ask for suggestions and advice. This resulted in everyone in our session room getting pushed when it was time for the next event. We also ended up with the WIKI found at

If any of you are looking for some reading, I strongly recommend Her Daughter: the Engineer. Well, that’s not so true. I heard Richard speak at NCWIE about Elsie MacGill and the bio he’s written about not just her engineering achievements, but also her personal challenges about being a woman in engineering just before WWII. I was thrilled. I sat there thinking ‘you’re going too fast - I want to know more!’ But I truly would have missed out if he had spent longer on the different airplane designs she came up with like I was hoping he’d do, and consequently left out what came later. Elsie designed many planes and flying inventions such as a plane for winter landing and deicing. She became the first woman to earn an Electrical Engineering degree in Canada and went on to become the first aero engineer in the world. During WWII she was in charge of the engineering department in charge of the Hurricane airplanes. This may sound like I’m giving everything away, but there is so much more and it truly is so much better tied in with the personal bits that Richard has discovered. If anyone is interested in learning more let me know, I did order his book, and it arrived this morning! But we’re also deciding if we should have Richard as a speaker focusing on Elsie’s technical achievements or struggle as a woman in a male field or maybe just an overview and let the audience decide. Enough said, keep an ear out for when he’ll be coming to Carleton!

Conferences are a lot of fun in terms of networking. You get to meet people from so many different schools and if you start going even to one conference a year you’ll start seeing people you’ve met before. I managed to get into a discussion with a woman from PEO and by the time the keynote speaker started I had been drafted to a new panel set to try and recreate PEO’s image amongst university students. Which is awesome, because I’ve heard all about PEO and I know all the benefits to being licensed as well as all the ways PEO can help students. Especially in your upper years where the engineer in training program lets you work with a mentor and determine if your co-op or summer employment experience will count towards your license. I also met a member of the Energy workers Union and after getting over the shock that the first thing out of my mouth was ‘and how much money do the top execs pocket exactly?’ had a long discussion with him about not accepting things at face value and an invitation to meet him at Congress in January.

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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Over the years, I've been a member of several different women's organizations. I'm sure you've all heard of the Girl Guides, but how many of you have heard of LinuxChix?

LinuxChix is an online community for women who like Linux and anyone who wants to support women in computing. It's global, and aside from one women-only mailing list, men are also welcome to join. It was founded by Deb Richardson (then in Ottawa!), who wanted to provide an alternative to the "locker room atmosphere" shown in a lot of open source projects at the time. There are only two rules: "be polite" and "be helpful."

While the focus is on Linux, lots of people talk about other free software projects, programming, women, knitting, starting a business, advice regarding bad colleagues ... whatever tickles their fancy! There are a variety of different mailing lists on different topics, as well as an IRC server, blog aggregator, and people even run courses online. Some are on the sorts of topics you might expect: Linux kernel hacking, LaTeX, networking... But one of my favourite courses was one called "Spineful living" which was about how to stand up for yourself. I don't think advice on how to be assertive ever been so funny!

I love that it's a global community, so often when someone asks a question, we'll get responses from people in different places saying "wow, [that dubious thing your employer asked] is an illegal question here!" or offering other bits of advice based on their very different cultural backgrounds. I also love that it's not all tech or all women all the time, so people can share other little victories in their lives, be it learning to bake bread, or figuring out how to fix a car.

And I love that having a friendly community has given a lot of our members support and encouragement when it comes to not only using, but also contributing to open source projects. Open source projects claim to be a meritocracy, but it's very easy to be too shy to contribute, or feel intimidated by heated discussions. And sometimes people just don't realise they have the skills necessary to contribute until they hear the great things other people have been doing! When more people can contribute to free software, everyone wins!

For more information on LinuxChix, please check out our website, go take a look at the LinuxChix mailing lists or maybe stop by IRC to chat with other 'chix!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Old Boys’ Computer Club

This is a copy of an article posted on, the blog of the National Women's Law Center.

A recent article in the New York Times examines reasons why there are fewer and fewer women entering into computer science, even as the number of women pursuing degrees and careers in other science fields rises.

There are many possible causes mentioned, but what stood out to me the most was the one that was missing: since there is evidence that once upon a time in that apparently enlightened age, the mid-1980s, women were just about as interested in computer science as their male peers (to the tune of 40 percent), the argument that “girls don’t like computers” or “men are naturally better suited to the hard sciences” is refreshingly absent. Considering that so many other articles take that easy way out, citing “natural gender differences” instead of delving any deeper, I’m going to call that a win.

A qualified win though; along with the lack of a biological argument, the article does not delve into the many barriers that young women face when pursuing non-traditional academic or career paths. Just because women have made major strides in other areas of science does not mean that they no longer face discrimination. There are still counselors who will discourage female students from the hard sciences, and there is still sexual harassment in classrooms and professors who make their preference for male students known. The possibilities that are included in the article are important ones that should be considered and examined, but not the only ones.

Continue reading "Old Boys’ Computer Club"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where did all the women (in Computer Science) go?

In the article "What Has Driven Women Out of Computer Science?" of the New York Times on November 15, 2008, Randall Stross addresses the fact that the number of women in Computer Science has decreased in the last couple of decades and (which is not the case in other Science and Engineering areas).
In 2001-2, only 28 percent of all undergraduate degrees in computer science went to women. By 2004-5, the number had declined to only 22 percent. Data collected by the Computing Research Association showed even fewer women at research universities like M.I.T.: women accounted for only 12 percent of undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering in the United States and Canada granted in 2006-7 by Ph.D.-granting institutions, down from 19 percent in 2001-2. Many computer science departments report that women now make up less than 10 percent of the newest undergraduates.

Stross points out some of the reasons for this behavior:
Last week, Ms. Margolis said that “a lot of the girls who were doing computer science came from families of computer scientists and engineers.” Her explanation: “It was in the air. There was the expectation that they could do whatever they wanted.” Ms. Spertus’s father was an M.I.T.-trained engineer. She learned programming even before personal computers had arrived, using computer terminals in her house that were connected to a Honeywell mainframe used by the family’s business.
Twenty-five years ago, more young women in colleges and universities were drawn to computer science than today. From 1971 to 1983, incoming freshman women who declared an intention to major in computer science jumped eightfold, to 4 percent from about 0.5 percent

I can relate to this, I come not only from a family of engineers, but female engineers.

Another explanation for this behavior in this article is the pejorative figure of the "nerd" or "geek", not very appealing to girls and young women.
At least we know one thing: it’s possible to have about the same number of men and women in computer science classes. That just about describes classrooms of 25 years ago.

Although it's not clear what happened the last two decades, I hope we can change this tendency, I'm happy to be part of CU-WISE, where we believe that women should be able to seek higher education and achieve success in science and engineering without barriers, perceived or otherwise. After all, we are "cool geeks".

See the full article online.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Most Influential Women in Web 2.0

ACM CareerNews Alert summarizes The Most Influential Women in Web 2.0:
While women are still underrepresented within the broader computing field, a growing number of women are emerging as influencers within the world of Web 2.0. With the goal of finding the most influential and innovative women changing the way that we interact online, Fast Company profiles some of the biggest names in the social media space – including entrepreneurs, technologists, and technology evangelists. Some are leaders at established companies such as Google, while others are superstar executives at emerging start-ups in Web 2.0 areas ranging from blogging to social networking to video.

Within Silicon Valley, one of the best-known names is Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. During her ten-year stint at the company, she has been a major player behind many of the company’s most popular products and services. Within the social media space, Caterina Fake is the co-founder of Flickr (now owned by Yahoo), which pioneered the online photo-sharing model, while Mena Trott is the co-founder of blogging company Six Apart. Other influential women include Leah Culver, founder of social networking site Pownce; Rashmi Sinha, CEO and co-founder of SlideShare; Dina Kaplan, co-founder and COO of; Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post; and Gina Bianchini, co-founder and CEO of social networking platform Ning.

These successful women have shared a number of lessons for their peers entering the world of Web 2.0. Unlike some technology jobs, they say, Web 2.0 positions typically offer a number of ways to combine both social and technical skills. Secondly, if you choose a corporate employer rather than a start-up, don't just look for a role that will suit you -- find a company that will help you grow. Thirdly, don’t hesitate to start evangelizing about your company or brand, whether it’s by writing a blog or communicating using other social media.
Read the whole article.

Friday, November 14, 2008

CU-WISE in CarletonNOW

Look Ma, we're famous!

CU-WISE was recently featured in Carleton University's newspaper, Carleton NOW, which "strives to be an inclusive, relevant and informative publication focused on building and fostering an engaged campus community." Check out the article online!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Men and Women Really Are Different, But We're Just As Smart

Psychology Today explains that men and women are physically different from the moment they are conceived, yet we gals are just as intelligent despite our physically smaller brains.
It's safe to talk about sex differences again. Of course, it's the oldest story in the world. And the newest. But for a while it was also the most treacherous. Now it may be the most urgent. The next stage of progress against disorders as disabling as depression and heart disease rests on cracking the binary code of biology. Most common conditions are marked by pronounced gender differences in incidence or appearance.
Check out the whole article called The New Sex Scorecard.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NAC performances for just $11

If you're a full-time student ages 13-29, you are eligible to become a Live Rush™ member ( and be able to purchase tickets to NAC performances for $11. The NAC is the National Arts Centre located downtown and the performances include theatre, music, dance, and opera. You can buy 2 Live Rush™ tickets per member, per performance, so you can bring a friend!

This is how it works. Live Rush™ tickets for theatre, music and dance go on sale starting at 2:00 pm on the day before the performance, and until 6:00 pm on the day of the performance. Tickets purchased online can be picked up at the NAC Box Office any time until the curtain rises or avoid the line-up and print your e-ticket at home for an extra $1.75 per order. Opera Lyra Ottawa tickets are $15 and are available from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm on the day of the performance with some seating restrictions.

When purchasing and picking up Live Rush™ tickets or when entering the hall you will be required to present proof of age, full-time Student ID or equivalent (bus pass, ISIC card, etc.) and a valid, registered Live Rush™ card. You can get a card in several locations around Ottawa (, one of which is at Carleton (CKCU-FM studio on the 5th floor of the Unicentre).

I have used this deal for years now, and I enjoy their dance performances and their operas the most.

Enjoy the show!

Friday, October 31, 2008

From the WISE Guy: I work for the Feds

This is a guest post written by a male who supports the cause of getting more women interested in working in science and engineering: Jeff Gordon. He wants to let us all know why working for the government in these fields is such a great opportunity!

I remember the day in second year when my classmates and I learned of our first co-op assignments. Many were off to companies with cool names like Ramius and Magma. Others had positions with well known companies like Adobe and Nortel. However, I ended up at some place called Public Works and Government Services Canada. Yuck! Clearly I had failed the company name awesomeness test. Was I about to become a drone in some stuffy cubicle sitting next to a Dwight Schrute clone?

Well, I later found out that this Public Works organization was one of many equally-boring named organizations that make up Canada's federal government, also known as the public service. Seriously if you ever have trouble sleeping at night, just keep repeating "Receiver General of Canada" over and over again. Nyquil's got nothing on that phrase. Thankfully, the work itself was far from boring. In fact the government does real work! I was so thankful because as a computer science student, I was not used to doing imaginary work. Virtual work yes, but not imaginary. Or is virtual a kind of imaginary? I digress.

During my co-op term, I got to research and create open source software for the government, a hot trend in computer science. My research became some of the basis for the current policies and initiatives regarding open source in the Canadian government today. I thought that was pretty neat for a "student". Maybe this whole government thing wasn't so bad after all.

In fact today, I still work for the government. I can't tell you which department though because it's a secret! But I know what you're thinking. I'm a spy. Working alongside the likes of James Bond and Sydney Bristow. Kicking ass and taking names! I'll bet you forgot from TV and movies that the government fictionally hires spies! But I'm not a spy. I'm just a web developer from a security conscious department. But the web is my passion. And the public service has allowed me to explore that passion in ways I could never have imagined before.

As a young person, I've noticed that there aren't enough young people starting a career in the public service. You know that there also aren't enough women in science and engineering overall. That means that the public service wants and needs young women like you in science and engineering type jobs. That's right, Uncle Canadian Sam needs YOU! It can be an amazingly rewarding experience with awesome pay, real job security, and the mobility to move around to different jobs and departments. Plus, the government will never go out of business!

So why not have a look at a career in the public service by visiting Get involved in Canada's future. The public service hire thousands of students annually through the university's co-op program and the Federal Student Work Exchange Program (FSWEP). So go have a look! And for fun, tell them Stephen sent you. They'll know what that means.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Join the Systers Mailing List

I belong to a mailing list called Systers:
Systers is the world’s largest email community of technical women in computing. It was founded by Anita Borg in 1987 as a small electronic mailing list for women in “systems”. Today, Systers broadly promotes the interests of women in the computing and technology fields. Anita created Systers to “increas[e] the number of women in computer science and mak[e] the environments in which women work more conducive to their continued participation in the field.”
This list is very well moderated to ensure that messages all members get stay on topic (less relevant conversations often continue off-list). There are so many different topics, ranging from "help! my supervisor hates me!" to "anyone know of a good job in web programming in this state?" No matter what is on your mind, you can be sure that there are nearly 3000 technical women willing to listed and help.

To give you an idea of the kind of thing you'll see on Systers, I would like to share this little tidbit that appeared there -- it is being shared anonymously with the permission of the author. She provides a really interesting analysis on the state of women in computing and how it has changed over the last few decades.
I started in computer science in the late 70's. Back then, about a third of the kids majoring in CS were women. I worked as a programmer at a hospital in the summer - all the programmers were women. They tended to work carefully, spending a lot of time on planning, talking to the users, and documentation. They all had children and left promptly at 5 to pick up the kids from babysitters.

Sometime in the late 80's, the field really changed. Everything became more male oriented. A cowboy culture started prevailing - the hero image was the lone gonzo developer who code frantically all night, but couldn't communicate with anyone. The ability to write and communicate seemed to be less valued by managers, whereas the ability to work long into the night became a way to score points. At my last job, many developers didn't show up until mid morning, but worked well into the evening. It was a real problem for me and the one other female developer - we both had kids and needed to leave by 5.

And now I have come full circle and am back doing healthcare development. But now, the hardcore developers are all men (the project managers and business analysts seem to be women though). And they can't write or communicate, and they brag endlessly about working until 3am.

So in short, I do think women are self-selecting out, but I don't think it is due to the nature of working with computers. The authors of that study are ignoring the fact that there used to be a lot of women in computer fields. I think that as the culture became more hardcore "male", women got out, starting a vicious cycle. The things that women often do well, writing and communicating, are now less valued, encouraging even more women to leave the field. Yes, I know we give lip service to the ability to work in teams and communicate with users, but the reality is that the developer who can bang out lots of code fast is always seen as more successful than the developer who can document designs well, or who is a careful tester.
I hope you'll consider joining Systers to discover the benefits of reading and contributing to topics like this one.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why you should join the CU-WISE team

As you may have noticed, CU-WISE is recruiting for one new executive member and many new officers! This is a very exciting opportunity to get involved with a group that makes a real difference in the lives of many Carleton women who study science and engineering, and young women who are considering it.

But why would you want to give up your time to get more involved when you could just enjoy our events and such? Well, here's my list of reasons that I think you should give it a try!
  • The experience looks awesome on your resume.
  • It's a very valuable learning experience where you gain team-based and leadership skills.
  • You'll discover just how many like-minded women are there for you to meet!
  • You'll form new friendships, sometimes in the most unexpected places.
  • You might get the opportunity to attend next year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Tucson, Arizona (no promises, but we're hoping!).
  • You'll be recognized on the CU-WISE website for the hard work you do.
  • We're hoping to give you a CU-WISE t-shirt that advertises your role as executive or officer.
  • You'll make a real difference in many women's and girls' lives, and most likely, your own.
I hope that's enough to get you motivated to fill in your application. We truly look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Grace Hopper Conference: We ARE building a better world

I've always admired people doing great things and making a difference and I look up to them for inspiration and role models, in particular if they're females.

What I really learned in this conference is that they struggle like us, have the impostor syndrome like many of us, love to go dancing like many of us, they're just ahead.
It was inspiring listening to Fran Allen, IBM Fellow Emerita at the J. Watson Research Laboratories, the only woman that has received the ACM's Turing Award (2006), first woman named an IBM Fellow and the first woman president of IBM's Academy of Technology. She shared her big steps on her career and achievements, but she also shared her hopes for the future, which I quote:
  • I'd like to see a new generation of women experience the excitement I feel for our field.
  • I'd like to see women creating the workplace that meets their needs.
  • I'd lie to see Computer Science become a core science of more interest to women (and others).
  • We achieve Anita's (Anita Borg's) goal: 50-50 by 2020.
  • Many Women Turing Award Winners.

Another treat for me, was listening to Mary Lou Jepsen, founding CTO of One Laptop per Child (OLPC), an organization whose mission is to deliver low-cost mesh-networked laptos en masse to children in developing countries. She created the machine many thought it was impossible and she shared with us the process in doing this. For this, she was named in 2008 one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
Mary Lou is such an energetic and inspiring person. She is currently leading her company Pixel Qi and her premise is that portables are all about the screen. And it was in screen innovations where she used her knowledge in Optics to design a cheap, yet reliable and innovative laptop.

These are just a couple of examples of the amazing women we met. I will continue with some of the discussions presented on panels such as: "The Imposter Panel" and "Women Wroking in International Development to Build a Better World". Follow-up posts coming up....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You CAN have it all, just not all at the same time

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference was a really great experience. It was inspirational, embedded more confidence in me, and made me realize how important it is for me to be able to help others through my career and passions. This was my first conference and I will never forget it. Not only did I get to spend some quality time with my fellow executive members of WISE, but I learned a lot about myself in the process.


This conference allowed me to network with other women in related fields who had a lot in common with me. These women from around the world gave me advice, told me about their experiences, and made me feel a sense of community.

Realistic Advice

Many sessions included guest speakers telling their stories based on the session topic and answering questions. Depending on the session, the questions from the audience ranged from maternity leave, to planning regional conferences, to outreach programs, to becoming a technical leader. Several sessions got into the topic of internships, and how valuable they are to discovering what options are out there. Other sessions included reviewing resumes and there were recruiters who spoke about what they look for in an employee. Many speakers mentioned the importance of having a mentor. Another session involved discussing successes of other women’s groups from around the world (British Columbia, Mexico, India, and Singapore). We got a few suggestions on how to improve WISE and delegate tasks to reduce our work load. The real life stories, experiences and advice were very valuable.

Inspiration Everywhere

All the wonderful women around me gave me hope that I can reach all my goals if I really aim high and don’t be afraid of taking risks. Everyone has struggles and must overcome failure. They encouraged me to be persistant in my career and personal goals, told me to set boundaries in my life, and made me realize that you really can have it all, just not all at the same time.

Final Reflections of the Grace Hopper Conference

As I wrote on my own blog, the last couple of days in Colorado were truly amazing. I spoke to several wonderful women who were able to give me some great advice and ideas, and got to go hiking with some awesome Google girls. This conference was the most fun, useful, inspiring, and enlightening I have heard of or been to yet.

Here are some of the great things I learned or experiences I gained while at this conference:
  • New ideas for outreach activities that I can do through CU-WISE and the Let's Talk Science program.
  • I really do want to be an instructor and teach.
  • I should definitely do an internship that is not close to home, even though I'm actually pretty scared of leaving my house and husband!
  • CU-WISE might eventually be capable of running a local celebration of women in computing if we work with several other groups.
  • The girls from Google are great hikers and great company.
  • Hemp and bamboo shirts and soft and comfy (thanks Microsoft!).
  • Women's conferences actually give away shirts made for women. Finally, swag I don't have to give to my husband!
  • Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.
  • Volunteering is the best way to meet new people.
  • Dancing with all women is a lot of fun (especially since most guys hate dancing anyway)!
  • The Macarena is usually cheesy, but looks cool when a whole room of people are lined up to do it.
I'm sure there's much more than that, too! I hope you will all make an effort to attend this conference before you graduate (or even after you do!). Hope to see you next year in Tucson, Arizona!

Friday, October 3, 2008


As you may have noticed, CU-WISE is hoping to get involved with many outreach programs around the Ottawa area. While at the Grace Hopper conference in Colorado, I attended several talks about specific projects others have done, ideas for new activities to try, and discussion on how to best attract high school women into computer science. If you're interested in this area at all, please check out the summaries of the talks linked to below. If you have any ideas or questions about outreach, let me know in the comments.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Quick update on Keystone

We spent most of our afternoon yesterday out on the lake. It is absolutely beautiful here at Keystone and the weather has been so warm in the afternoons (but still chilly in the mornings and evenings).

Today was our first day of the conference. Spent most of the time volunteering and running around from the resume clinic to various networking events. We were all exhausted by the end of the night. Our schedules for the next two days of the conference are already packed with sessions and events. Time to catch up on that sleep...!

Networking at Grace Hopper

If you ever doubted the power of networking, then be sure to attend Grace Hopper next year. They aren't kidding when they say that this is one of the main conference goals. Read all about it on my personal blog and let me know what ideas you have for improving your networking skills (leave me a comment).

Balancing your career/research and motherhood

After listening to the opinion and experiences of many women in academia and industry I am convinced that there is no such a thing as "the right time" to have children. After meeting amazing women today, technical women building a better world (the focus of this year GHC), I have realized that if you work in something you are passioned about you will find ways to also reach your personal goals. I was very happy to know that in this conference there is childcare available for all the attendees and that many moms are here with their kids and even their babies.

This is the kind of networking environment you will see here, successful women that have reached their goals, and not only at the professional level. It's always nice to see the theory in practice. Thank you to Seraphim Carlson from Yahoo who nicely accepted to have her and her baby's picture taken and published in our blog.

To end this short blog after a long day of conference activities and hopper tasks, I thrilled went I discover that the menu of the lunch and the dinner was mexican food, such a treat for me.
I feel lucky to be in the right place with the right people, and the conference has just started!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kayaking with the ducks and the geese

Today we had all day to explore Keystone Resort. One of the most exciting things we did was to kayak a little lake in Lakeside Village. We relaxed on the water while all the geese and ducks followed us around. Of course the view was amazing and the sun was shining bright. I hope we get a chance to go bike riding around the resort at some point. The conference starts tomorrow, so we'll be pretty busy the rest of the week.

A Lazy Day in Colorado

When we arrived in Keystone late this morning, our breath was taken away. The mountains were just beautiful. Then, while checking in, we saw the lake below the Spa and Lounge and its pure blue-green water. Just when you thought it couldn't get better!

The best part was that we didn't even need to fulfil our volunteer duties of the day when the morning shift of swag bag stuffers finished the job before we were even needed! So we used the free time to borrow a paddle boat and kayaks to float around the lake. What a peaceful hour and a half.

I wrote a more detailed account of our day, complete with a few photos, on my personal blog. Check it out to see just how lucky we are to be in paradise!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So we all met up at the airport two hours before our flight was supposed to depart... only to find out that our flight has been delayed and they changed our itinerary and we were now flying to Newark instead of Chicago, where we would be transferring to another plane to get to Denver. Wait.......Where the hell is Newark...?!?

Good question. That's exactly what went through all our minds when we realized that the woman behind the desk said "Newark" instead of "New York". What a disappointment...

Annnd about 6 hours later, and lots of running around big airports, we're finally in Denver, Colorado. We'll be off to Keystone tomorrow morning to start our Hopper assignments!

I can't believe we're finally in Colorado

After so much planning for this conference, like getting funding, applying for scholarships, applying to be Hoppers (a volunteer position during the conference), registering, submitting our resumes, and so on.... we're finally in Denver! So far, we had a few issues with delayed flights and Natalia got questioned at the airport which caused her to almost miss her flight (literally by a few seconds). But other than that, I'm excited to see what this week brings.

Gearing Up For Grace Hopper

After some trial and tribulation, the executive members of CU-WISE have finally made it to Denver, Colorado for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (you can read my detailed account of the actual trip on my personal blog). We're staying near the airport tonight, but we're heading to Keystone first thing tomorrow morning.

We were all accepted as volunteers, called "Hoppers," which means we have special duties to help the conference out in exchange for free registration. Most of us are doing bag stuffing tomorrow and then various duties like greeting or manning the Internet Cafe the day after. I think this should be a wonderful way to meet new people right away and learn about the conference before it actually begins on Wednesday.

I'm super excited about being here. I've been wanting to go to this conference since my trip to Google in May when I first heard about it. It's amazing that we were able to find the funding and support that we got, and I hope we'll bring back a lot of great information and advice to benefit our CU-WISE members, and help us reach out to younger women.

We're on our way to GHC'08

After changing our itinerary, staying one hour in the plane waiting to take off and a headache, we're spending the night in Denver and tomorrow we'll take the shuttle to Keystone Resort, go the GHC '08 conference: .
The only thing I can say now is that this experience will be unique: I'm travelling with other 3 girls (Barb, Gail and Serena, executives of CU-WISE) and I expect 98% of women in this conference, as oposed to 10-20% which I normally see.
I'm really excited and I know that all the troubles we went through to get funding and work in advance will be worth it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ready, set, go!

The CU-WISE blog has been launched.

Welcome to our new blog!

I've been getting very excited about setting up our very own CU-WISE blog, and am very pleased that it has now been launched. All executive members of CU-WISE will be contributing news and information to this space. We hope to tell you about how the group is progressing toward fulfilling the mission and vision, what kinds of events we have hosted and will be hosting, and other interesting and relevant tidbits from around the net. So be sure to subscribe to the feed and enjoy the ride!