In predominantly male major, women feel equal
Despite the proliferation of men in the computer science department at UW-Eau Claire, women are not experiencing discrimination.
“I don’t feel that I have been an object of discrimination,” said senior Karissa O’Keefe, president of Women in Information Technology Systems.
Though she doesn’t experience discrimination, O’Keefe said that being a woman in computer science can be intimidating.
“When I started the major I did not have any experience in computer programming,” she said. “I felt like I was always a step behind.”
Senior CS major Josh Swan said that he has not heard of any discrimination against women in the computer science department.
He also said that he supports women computer science majors.
“I think more women should be in CS,” he said. “Many of the first pioneers in the computer science field were women.”
Andrew Phillips, professor and chair of the computer science department, said that he thinks the reason why the field of computer science is traditionally viewed as male-oriented is because of “the issue of ‘culture.’”
“Boys are raised in such a way that they are encouraged and rewarded for ‘tinkering’ with computers,” he said. “Girls seem to not be encouraged to do the same. Many of the women in our CS program comment that they were not encouraged in high school to spend any time working with computers, whereas men were.”
A solution for women having trouble in the computer science department is Women in Information Technology Systems.
O’Keefe said WITS is looking to “offer women a group of (other women) who are going through the (CS major), experiencing the same difficulties in making time for homework and a social life.”
WITS is planning on offering training for women in areas they might not have experience, O’Keefe said.
For example, the group is planning a workshop on basic HTML for those students who have not learned how to create a Web site and have wanted to.
WITS is aiming at transcending the boundaries of classroom work, she said.
“Mainly we want to offer a less intimidating medium for students to broaden their knowledge of new and different information technologies that are often not taught in the classrooms,” she said.
Phillips lauded WITS for its ability to offer a great social support for women in CS.
“I just hope that women new to CS this year, and those coming in the fall, will get involved with WITS,” he said. “If they do, then I am confident that they will be much more comfortable and much more confident about their experience and education in CS.”