Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Call for more women to study computer science

UC computer science student Caitlin Duncan says many companies are particularly interested in hiring women because women tend to have better communication and interpersonal skills. Photo / Thinkstock
UC computer science student Caitlin Duncan says many companies are particularly interested in hiring women because women tend to have better communication and interpersonal skills. Photo / Thinkstock

Women need to be encouraged into studying the field of computer science where they are well under-represented, a top computer scientist says.

It is estimated that in New Zealand women make up less than 30 per cent of technical roles in the computing industry.

University of Canterbury (UC) computer scientist Professor Tim Bell says that needs to change, given the "huge demand" for graduates in the field.

"Research shows that women are just as capable in this area as men so one of the best ways of increasing the number of professionals in this field is by encouraging women into it," he said.

UC computer science student Caitlin Duncan says many companies are particularly interested in hiring women not because they need to even out the ratio, but because women tend to have better communication and interpersonal skills.

"Women enjoy the combination of technical and non-technical work that leadership positions in these companies require," she said.

"It is crucial for the health of the industry to encourage women into this area, especially as technology becomes more entrenched in our daily lives. Women use technology just as much as men, so it follows that they should have just as much say in its creation."

A recent weekend workshop for young women saw a large number of high school students attending, Prof Bell said.

The young women demonstrated they were easily capable of grappling with computer challenges, he says.

"The event was a very positive message to the young women who participated that their perspective and skills are valuable in designing new technology," Prof Bell said.

"This is a strong counter to the negative messages they often get through western culture, which creates false stereotypes of the kind of people who do computing."

UC also runs an after school all-female Computer Science Club where students learn programming and basics of computer science.

- APNZ

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