Ahana Chibber is a Y12 student at Dr Challoner's Grammar School in Amersham, where she’s studying A Levels in Computer Science, Maths, Further Maths and History A levels.
She’s particularly interested in Computer Science and the fascinating world of IT, and told us about her aspirations and what it’s like being the only girl in a year group of 200 to study Computer Science.
What attracted you to studying Computer Science?
“When I was choosing my GCSE options in Y9 I was drawn to Computer Science because of how much everyone was talking about how computing is the future. I wanted to see what this was all about. Also, around this age I was introduced to social media and thought it would be fascinating to find out how the apps which I was spending so much time on, actually worked. In addition, at that point I had a little bit of experience of coding programming in various languages and I found the problem-solving aspect of coding quite appealing.
What have been the highlights so far?
“Getting in touch with BCS has been a big highlight! As the only girl doing CS in a year group of 200 students in sixth form, I reached out to BCS because I knew they were working hard to tackle the lack of female representation.
I never imagined there would be so much enthusiasm to support me from BCS! I'm very excited about how this can help me in the future!
Recently I've undertaken an online work experience course in software development offered by Deloitte. This was a great experience for me as it was an opportunity to take part in the corporate aspects of computer science and in more professional projects. I'm also at a stage where I'm thinking about university and personal statement for my application, so have been trying to go beyond the A Level curriculum and immerse myself in books about computer science.”
Any books or recommendations?
I’m currently reading a book Algorithms to Live By – the Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths. It's a very interesting book. It is not too technical, and it goes a bit deeper into how much computer science is involved in every aspect of our lives and every decision that we make. There is so much maths behind everything and it’s so interesting to see how that all works!
What’s it like being the only girl studying Computer Science?
"I joined the sixth form from a girls’ school and I never imagined that I’d be the only girl in a big year group who was doing computer science. I walked into the classroom on the first day and it was full of boys. It was a little intimidating at first, I was waiting for another girl to walk in! But it hasn’t held me back and the people in my class are wonderful. But I do think it points to a bigger issue. I’m sure my school is not the only one with a lack of female representation. It made me think what can I do to tackle this, because, of course, we want more girls in the industry.”
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What are your aspirations for the future?
“I am considering studying Computer Science at a University in in the UK. Thinking long term, I would be interested in travelling and living elsewhere and potentially pursuing a career in data science. I hopefully will get the chance to explore new cultures and meet new people.”
Why is it important to make sure more girls study computer science?
“It’s no secret that women throughout history have been hugely constrained and limited. Gender stereotypes are in place from birth so that girls are conditioned to pursue a certain path. While things are getting better, the statistics show that in UK and US representation in engineering sectors is still as low as 10%. It’s so important that this changes because this underrepresentation means that all of women’s discoveries, work, creativity and intellectual gifts are lost.
Technology which is designed by scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds can advance products and services for consumers who have diverse needs. There’s real life evidence of this bias such as AI technology used to hire people being biased against women, because the data had been developed by men.”
Do you have any advice to girls looking to study Computer Science at GCSE or beyond?
“Don’t be discouraged if you’re in the minority in lessons in school. By persevering you can be the role model to younger students and inspire them to take up Computer science. And as a general point, work experience and online courses are a great way to learn more about computer science and particularly for those considering a tech field for a career. It’s such a broad field with a such a wide range of different roles which really appeals to me.”