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Building gender balance in computer science

Posted: 31 July, 2018

Representatives from computer science departments across the country have formed a committee to increase gender balance in computing.

Computing - Gender equality committee

The goal of the committee, which was set up by academics from DIT and UCD in collaboration with representatives from thirteen Higher Education Institutions in Ireland, is to share best practice and drive higher impact initiatives across the sector to attract and retain more female students. 

“Lack of gender diversity is a critical issue for the Irish tech sector,” explains Dr Susan McKeever, a Lecturer in Computing at DIT and one of the co-organisers of the group. “Third level institutions are keenly aware of this, with an average of 10% female students on computing programmes in Ireland. When we first contacted the other institutions about forming a committee to address this issue, the interest was huge.” 

Dr McKeever feels that time is of the essence. “Girls are losing out on opportunities in this critical sector that our economy relies on. As well as sharing best practice, we aim to develop a targeted national project with industry involvement that can extend right across the third-level sector. We would love if Ireland became a model for other countries on how to crack the gender problem."  

Welcoming the formation of this cross-institute committee, Dr Deirdre Lillis, Head of the DIT School of Computing says, "The stark reality is that most of our information technology is being developed almost exclusively by men, a situation which has far-reaching consequences for diversity and inclusion across all aspects of society and the economy. This situation will not change unless the gender imbalance on female participation in computer science programmes is addressed. I am delighted to see this inaugural meeting take place, which I am certain will provide much needed leadership in this area within Computer Science Faculties across Ireland."

The committee, which plans to meet regularly going forward, is led by the DIT School of Computing and UCD School of Computer Science, in collaboration with representatives from Dublin City University, Dundalk IT, IADT, IT Blanchardstown, IT Carlow, IT Tallaght, IT Tralee, Letterkenny IT, Maynooth University, Sligo IT, University College Cork, University of Limerick, and Trinity College Dublin.