How do the top 10 Universities in Computer Science perform in terms attracting female students? And what can universities do?

How do the top 10 Universities in Computer Science perform in terms attracting female students? And what can universities do?.


Sue Black

I nominated Sue Black for the UKRC Outstanding Achievement award (Category: Communicating SET to society). Unfortunatley, this year she did not get it 😦 I think this is a shame as she really deserves it. My nomination is below:

Sue Black is my role models and I am inspired by her. I am very honoured to nominate Sue Black for this award as I truly believe that her hard work, dedication and enthusiasm to reach out to women in computing needs recognition. Sue has given a voice to women in engineering of the past, present and future. She has truly changed the world, whilst being a mum of 4 and her full time job as a successful academic.

Sue Black rose to fame amongst the women in computing community through setting up the British Computer Societies women’s group (BCSWomen) in 2001. The group have daily email exchanges about the imposter syndrome, how to deal with difficult work situations and other relevant topics. BCSWomen currently has over 1200 members. Through setting up an online group, Sue became the face of women in computing throughout the UK and has enabled for women in computing around the UK have a support network. As well as the online group, Sue also organized events such as workshops for women in computing for the WWW web conference, where she attracted sponsorship from Google. This workshop attracted undergraduates and PhD students, which added a new dimension to BCSWomen’s network. Sue’s idea of such a support network was innovative to reach out to women in different areas of the UK, however it was her use of social networks which has given her the ability to network and reach out to those around the world.

In 2007 BCSWomen were heavily involved in a campaign to promote the work of the women in Bletchley Park. This was where Sue came into her own. She was passionate that the women who worked in Bletchley Park should have their stories told and that we as a nation need to recognize the work that women did to contribute to winning the war. The women of Bletchley Park are role models to us all and heroes of our nation. Sue has made sure that the work they did has been revealed to the world by giving a voice to those who were forced to secrecy.

During Sue’s visits to Bletchley Park, she saw the severity of the damage to the huts. She felt that the lack of funding to the upkeep of Bletchley was a disgrace to our heritage. Sue then began her fierce campaign to save Bletchley Park. It was important that a site like Bletchley is saved as it is a very real part of our history. As a nation we owe it to those who worked there and to the future generations of this country. It is a beacon for equality: a place where regardless of gender, the emphasis was on using the best brains to solve a common problem, which in this case was saving the country. Sue Black’s campaign is that of a passion for equality and heritage. The campaign began with igniting this same passion in her peers by asking them to sign a petition to bring the lack of funding to parliament and then writing a letter to the Telegraph to shock the nation in to disbelief saying that she was ‘ashamed of being British’. This sparked media interest from the BBC and that is when her campaign began. Her campaign to save our past was enabled by a very visionary tool: Twitter.

Sue’s use of social media has bought together women in computing. But also the women of Bletchley. She used Twitter to bring together followers and make contacts to help her save Bletchley Park and has bought in major funding from Google and enabled it to win Lottery Heritage funding. She has reached out to those who would not have considered trying to understand the importance of science in our history and attracted the likes of Stephen Fry and Maggie Philbin to the campaign. Sue has since been named an ‘IT Hero’ and has regular speaking engagements.

What Sue has achieved is unique as she has reached out and given a voice to women of the past, present and future. I do not think that anyone else deserves this as much as she does.

International Womens Day at the University of Southampton


This is a VERY late update about International Womens day on the 8th March. The University of Southampton had a very comprehensive programme of events to celebrate International Women’s day. The full list is available by clicking here.

I want to tell to you about one specific activity I had great pleasure in being part of. This was organising an activity on the Imposter Syndrome. We were really lucky to have an amazing speaker: Deena Gornick. I think everyone in the room went away inspired and full of confidence.

So what is the Imposter Syndrome?

From my experience, its feeling like a fake. So like going to a meeting and thinking ‘I am so not clever like everyone else – why am I even here… why are they even listening to me?!’. Sounds familiar? Apparently lots of cool, funky people feel the same way – yes people (this includes guys!). Its a very normal feeling. But that does NOT make it right.

I learnt from Deena that its OK to say ‘thank you – I worked very hard on that project  and I am indeed fabulous…’  Well not the whole shebang but you get what I mean. For some reason that helps me value myself, what I do and it also helps me say ‘NO’ to people.

I think for me…. its BIG progress. I would like to thank Deena for coming to the Uni to talk to us…. it has made a massive impact on me and the way I see the world.

My current research: Audience Segmentation Analysis

Research overview

This is my current research topic. The results so far are interesting and we have a lot to learn about attitudes to science and technology. This project is funded by HESTEM.

The lack of diverse numbers of students opting to take certain STEM courses is a cause for concern for those in education and the STEM industry alike. The reasons for this disparity are varied and can be attributed to factors such as the media, schooling or parental influences.

In order to improve HEI understanding of these factors for each of the different under-represented groups and how HEI actions and procedures might be improved to mitigate these influences, we will investigate this phenomenon through understanding how students studying a range of STEM courses at different levels of their education perceive these courses and future STEM opportunities, based on their formal and informal learning experiences. This will be compared with students who are currently studying undergraduate courses such as medicine and pharmacy, which are sciences where the disparity is not as significant. This will help us understand what different student group studying STEM and other sciences found attractive about science and STEM.

Students at GCSE, A-level and Degree levels will be part of this sample group in order understand what they want to see from science careers through designing a poster/mind-map. We will be asking all participants to complete a short questionnaire about their background, feelings and thoughts on science. Each group will have a digital recorder on their table so we can get an idea of how they have come up with their conclusions and the over all design. We will then conduct focus groups to get a deeper understanding with regards to their thinking on what the positive messages.

We will be holding an exhibition at the end of the school year to demonstrate the perceptions young people have. We will be inviting the students who took part, as well as their families, professional societies and senior university management.

If you are interested in any of this work then do get in touch. I am interested in proposals to extend it further.



Hope you are all feeling fab! I aim to update this blog to tell the world about the cool things I am doing at the moment. Am currently working on a project called Audience Segmentation. Its all about understanding why certain types of people decide to study certain types of science. Theres a strong focus on gender and ethnic groups. Am using an exciting methodology, which I shall explain in the next few days! Until then… nite nite!