Category Archives: Women in Computing

HER in Hero: Anita Borg

Nominated by: Janis Jefferies

Anita Borg, the founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology (IWT). Anita Borg died sadly in April of 2003 from brain cancer at the age of 54. Beginning in 1997, the institute was supported and funded by Xerox. Her goals for the institute were threefold:

  • bring non-technical women into the design process
  • encourage more women to become scientists
  • and help the industry, academia, and the government accelerate these changes.

HER in Hero: Justine Cassell, Rosalind Picard and Rana El Kaliouby

Nominated by: Marco Gillies

JustineCassell has really influenced my work over the years with her fantastic work on modelling human non-verbal behaviour, work that really integrates computational work with very human behaviour.

Rosalind Picard: also does that in a different way. Her work on “Affective Computing”, i.e. computing and the emotions, applies hard core engineering to the very human problem of emotion.

Finally, I’d like to mention one of Rosalind’s collaborators, Rana El Kaliouby, who did her PhD in the same lab as me and I had to honour once to present some of her fantastic work on emotion recognition at a conference.

HER in Hero: Professor Dame Wendy Hall

Nominated by: Wendy McDonald

I’d like to nominate Professor Dame Wendy Hall – I only recently came across her and her work through listening to ‘The Life Scientific’. It was fantastic to hear her talk about her route to becoming such a prominent computer scientist having originally thought that computers had nothing much to offer her. Not only is she a hugely intelligent and successful scientist but she also sounds like an inspirational manager – leading the School of Electronics and Computer Science from 2002 to 2007, during which time the department lost much of its work and infrastructure in a severe fire.

I also had to nominate her as she shares my name and it’s not often that you come across another Wendy, especially in the STEM world.



HER in Hero: Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley

Nominated by: Brock Craft, Computing Dept

I think Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley put the “HER” in Hero because she was one of the pioneers of supporting women in Computing. She founded a software company called Freelance Programmers in 1962 to help women obtain work opportunities. It was an ideal fit for women supporting children and directly challenged the pervasive attitude that women weren’t suited to highly technical roles. Like many of her predecessors, Dame Shirley adopted a male name to get her in the door, surprising some of her prospective clients as she walked into boardrooms. Her company won major government contracts, designed scheduling and shipping software, and determined the statistical analyses for the black box sensor array on Concorde.


Putting the HER in Hero for Ada Lovelace Day

In association with Little Miss Geek’s, HER in Hero campaign Goldsmiths Women in Computing Network is holding the above event, an opportunity for women students to meet up and have a cup of tea together and an informal chat about their studies and their experience of Goldsmiths.

We are also asking all staff and students, whether men or women, to do one of the following to promote women as role models for both men and women in Computing and other STEM subjects:

1) Send us a photo of yourself and the name of a woman in Computing or another STEM subject. Tell us why you think she puts the HER in Hero. We will put your picture and your reasons on the blog and our VLE page. The role model you nominate can be anyone at all, from your high school teacher to Ada herself!

2) If you have Facebook or Twitter send a tweet or update your facebook status on Tuesday 15th. Write ‘Happy Ada Lovelace Day’ followed by the name of your role model. Take a screenshot and email us the screenshot so we can add it to the blog and the VLE.

You can send either of these things to r.hepworth[at]

Women in Computing workshop at Goldsmiths

On the 27th March, the Computing Department at Goldsmiths ran an Introduction to Arduino workshop specifically aimed at women applicants.

The workshop was a great success. Arduino is a computer that can sense what is going on in the world and make something happen because of it. It is a prototyping board, for all your interactive design/artistic needs. The workshop introduced applicants to some of the amazing things that can be done with an Arduino, how to get started and how to find out more. In the workshop we learned how to write a small computer program to control a light to turn on when it gets dark, or when someone comes near. All participants seemed to enjoy the workshop, as did the workshop leaders, Sophie and Shauna from MzTek.

Our department is committed to actively encouraging more women to take up university places in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) subjects. We are also committed to supporting women students once they arrive at Goldsmiths because we recognise that Computing subjects have traditionally been dominated by men.

Keep an eye out for more Women in Computing events taking place at Goldsmiths over the coming months.




‘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