Computing for equality

Nationally, only about 18 percent of computer science graduates are women. At UNI, the number of women enrolled in a computer science major or minor is around 9 percent. Assistant professor of computer science Sarah Diesburg was determined to defy these percentages by encouraging young women to come together to prove they have what it takes by forming the student group, Women in Computing.

Women in computing
Members of UNI's Women in Computing student group.

"I noticed there was a need for a group in the computer science department for current female students and the recruitment of incoming students," said Diesburg, the group's adviser. "I remember the time as a student when I felt out of place in the computer science departments, and having this type of group available in graduate school helped me. I would like to pay that forward with our current students."

Diesburg and some of her students attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference last October, the world's largest gathering of women technologists. While there, they were inspired to establish a new student technology group as soon as they could. Although the group is called Women in Computing, all males who are also interested in seeing women have an equal spotlight on their accomplishments are welcome to join.

"We started the women in computing student organization for women in this major to meet and collaborate with other women, as well as men, that are interested in the same things," said the group's vice president, Stephanie Smith. "We do not have a high percentage of women in the computer science major at UNI, so it is important to let women know that this opportunity is here and that it is growing."

Computer science majors as well as those interested in computing or science are encouraged to join and spread the word of such a promising group. Women in Computing have a strong core of motivated student members, and many speakers and events are already lined up for the upcoming school year.

"We have three main goals; professional development, outreach, and community," said the group's president, Michaela Leinen. "We aim to find ways we can help build each other up whether it be going to conferences together, fundraising for the organization, and going to schools in the area to teach and encourage those girls."