30 July 2018 | by Bridgette Ruck-Jessome

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The Importance of Female Role Models in STEM, A First-Hand Account

I first seriously considered going into Computer Science after a female friend of mine chose it as a career path. I was considering it previously, but the fact that someone I could relate to had chosen that path, really solidified it for me. She was someone I looked up to, someone who made me realize that if someone like me could do it, then so could I. I now realize the importance of female role models in encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM-related fields.

My journey began with female encouragement

It was my roommate, at the time I was thinking of pursuing computer science, who inspired me, in a way. We were both learning a little bit of Java at the time, and she had decided to go to the University of New Brunswick (UNB) for a Bachelor of Computer Science. I decided that I would try a Computer Science course in the last year of my Biology degree, and if it was something I wanted to pursue further, I would. The majority of the people in the course were male, but there were some females. The presence of other women in the classroom made me feel comfortable. Furthermore, my professor was a woman. To see a woman in charge of a classroom, in a male dominated field, was refreshing. To see a successful woman confident in such a space was empowering.  All of these factors combined helped me to commit to another degree in something I had an interest in.

In 2013, the proportion of female graduates in Computer Science was 29% compared to a proportion of female graduates of over 60% for all other degrees.

– Statistics Canada Report

I had never realized that having female role models could be so important, because it was not something that really affected me until this point in my life. I had gone through school and never really thought about what types of people were around me. I was conscious of often being the only person of colour in my class. Though it was not something that ever caused me to question my right to be there or my ability to do the work. In one of my Computer Science Courses, I was one of three women in class of about 15 – 20 men. But to look around and see other women in the classroom was comforting in a way.

According to a Statistics Canada report, in 2013, the proportion of female graduates in Computer Science was 29% compared to a proportion of female graduates of over 60% for all other degrees. Women may be worried about not being taken seriously in a male dominated space and that was one of my worries. I may be part of the minority but my experience has been quite good. I have had mostly positive experiences with my classmates and with my professors. I have been grateful to be a co-op student at CyberNB and I have been offered another co-op position for another company come this Fall.  CyberNB has taught me to be confident in ways I never thought I could be. I get to interact with people on a daily basis in a professional setting and do a multitude of different types of work, from keeping the CyberNB website up to date to writing blog posts like these. Through this experience I hope to be confident and assertive as I continue my journey in the STEM world. I know that in the future I may be one of a few women in a particular company, but I am determined not to let that stop me.  I have learned that I deserve to be where I am just as much as anyone else and I am proud to be where I am.

Women in STEM show other women and girls that there are possibilities for them in the field

An education in technology may not even occur to someone until they see someone like them pursuing it. This is why the representation of women in technology is important. To inspire young girls and women, we must start by showing them that they are perfectly capable.

CyberNB is a Special Operating Agency of Opportunities NB.

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