‘Our Correspondent’, Dr Kate Devlin – BBC Expert Women

Our lecturer, Dr Kate Devlin, was one of 60 experts selected out of over 2000 applicants to take part in a scheme to tackle gender imbalance in the media. Here she talks about her experience.

Tuesday, 4pm, at the BBC Academy: I was so busy chatting with three other women about computers, 3D printing, robotics and counterterrorism engineering that I forgot I was in a radio studio in the middle of a broadcast. I was taking part in the BBC Academy Expert Women day as a participant in the second cohort to be put through their paces at White City. Considering I had started the morning panicking that maybe I didn’t know enough, and that maybe they would think I was a fraud, the training had worked.

In four all-too-short sessions we were shown the ropes, getting a taste of how to confidently share our knowledge and research with a wide audience on TV and radio. But it wasn’t just the new skills that were so fascinating: the twenty-nine other women experts and the industry women training us were among the most interesting I have ever had the pleasure to meet. From astrobiologists to actuaries, and from to vulcanologists to feminist historians, everyone had something compelling to share and the opportunity was there to share it.

Women are vastly under-represented in the media and the Expert Women campaign seeks to redress the gender imbalance. This imbalance is also echoed in our own discipline – computing – where women are often discouraged by the “white male geek” stereotype. It’s estimated that the number of UK technology jobs held by women is just 17%. Seventeen percent! And yet we are all using and interacting with technology daily. Research shows we often assume that because we see stereotypes, we feel we ought to conform to those stereotypes in order to be successful. In other words, if we see a geeky male computer scientist, we think we can only be a computer scientist if we are both geeky and male. Not true! It was women who drove many of the early developments in computing and, hopefully, it will be women who contribute more and more in the future. Through initiatives such as these where women talk about what they do and share it publicly, we hope to encourage other women and girls, and show that a career in computing is both possible and desirable.

Dr Kate Devlin