Last year, there were still more people called David heading up FTSE 100 companies than there are women. Women are also acutely underrepresented in the field of computing, a field which underpins and creates the products for so many of our businesses.
Women made up just 17% of undergraduate enrolments in computer science in 2016/2017 (HESA). Our lecture theatres across the UK host more than eight male computing students for every two female students, and this means that as a nation, we’re currently missing out on the talents of too many people.
The annual Lovelace Colloquium demonstrates just how much expertise and ability our undergraduate women have to offer computer science. It’s a one-day conference named after Lady Ada Lovelace, who traced the execution of a computer program back in 1843, way before any such machine had been constructed.
While humans of all genders are very welcome to attend, the day of the Lovelace Colloquium is set to showcase the achievements of women, and to provide the inspiration, the confidence-boost and the female role models currently needed by the students who are our next generation of coders, engineers, system designers and scientists.
Keynote speakers this year included: Helen Leigh, maker, and creator of the MINI-MU glove, Katerina Domenikou of Bloomberg, Sana Belguith of The University of Salford and Natalia Miller of the BBC. All four of the speakers were just as excited by computer science and its potential as Ada Lovelace had been more than 175 years ago.
The highlight of the day however, is always the undergraduate and masters poster competition, with prizes sponsored by Google, Amazon, JP Morgan, AND Digital and STFC. This year there were 117 poster finalists covering an incredible range of computing topics.
Winning topics included “Source identification of social media images using CNN”, “Quantum cryptography: will our data remain secure?”, “Code as Old as Time” and “Challenges Associated with Humanitarian Applications of Neural Machine Translation for Low-Resource Languages”.
This was the 12th year for this conference, which moves around the country each year and has grown to 205 attendees. The hosts this year were Salford University, whose Vice Chancellor Helen Marshall, welcomed the students. Conference Chair Helen Miles from Aberystwyth University had already introduced the conference, so by the time the first keynote speaker Helen Leigh began, the audience were beginning to refer to the speakers as “Helen Number One” or “the third Helen”.
Events such as this help to change our environment, so that in the future there can be as many people called Helen heading up FTSE 100 companies as there are Davids. We’re looking forward to next year’s Lovelace Colloquium already.
Author: Amanda Clare, Aberystwyth University