The BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium is the UK’s main event aimed at women undergraduate computing students. In 2014 it’ll be at the University of Reading, on April 16th.
I set up the first event back in 2008 after going to a tech conference and finding myself the only woman in the room. It’s a strange experience – the gender imbalance is not threatening or uncomfortable, but it’s undeniably odd. Events aimed at women in computing try to provide a space where this isn’t the case, and where the gender balance is reversed. They serve to show you you’re not the only woman in the discipline, even if you are sometimes the only woman in the room.
Looking around, I realised there were events for professional women in tech, and for postgraduates and researchers in the computing sphere, but there was nothing in the UK for undergraduate women. So I set one up. Now in it’s 7th year, it’s gone from strength to strength, going from an event with 45 attendees (where we got lunch by driving to the supermarket and picking up some baguettes) to an annual one-day conference with support from major tech companies. Some students have come along as a first year student, and then returned every year.
The aim is not only to provide a forum for women students to network, but also to provide role models through staging talks by women who are successful in computing. What we want to do is to talk about the excellent computer science that happens to be done by women, rather than running a specific “women in” event. (There’s only so much you can say about gender and the leaky pipeline, I’d much rather see student posters and talks about machine translation, or novel interfaces, or apps to identify art…) Each year we have speakers from industry and academia, a poster contest for students to show off their own work (to each other and to recruiters), a social, and cake. And we still offer a free lunch, although it’s not generally made by me any more. This year we’re hoping to get about 120 attendees from across the UK.
To enter the poster contest, students need to write a short abstract on their idea and submit it online. The best abstracts will get their travel costs refunded, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors – so they get a free trip to the event, as well as the talks, free lunch, and the chance to win a poster prize. Prizes are donated by corporate sponsors – this year all prizes are over £150, and the sponsors include Google, EMC, Airbus UK, and Edinburgh startup interface3. (This last sponsor is a source of particular pride to me – the founder of the company actually came to the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium back in 2008, and has sponsored a “people’s choice” prize for the last couple of years. Lovely way to give back to the Lovelace, eh?). Full information on how to enter the poster contest can be found on our website.
If you’re an academic at a UK computing department, you could put up our poster and please encourage your women students to attend.