Mentoring younger students, particularly women, is not only challenging but inspiring. Being a woman in Computer Science, a heavily male dominated field, is often a challenging experience. It is not unusual for a woman to find herself undermined by her classmates, just because she doesn’t fit the stereotypical “Computer Science” mould.
In conversation with senior women students in the Department, one often finds that they have had a journey of nearly quitting Computer Science. This was, nearly always, pre-empted by having spoken with other women students or lecturers, who encouraged them to continue, and reassured them, that they were in fact capable of pursing a Computer Science degree.
This begged the question, “How many female students would have continued and pursued a degree in Computer Science degree, had there been some form of encouragement and mentoring available?” In response to this, Women in Computer Science was started in 2011 by some postgraduate students. It was officially recognized to be a society in 2015. Our main goal is to gather the women in the department together to encourage conversation, support, mentorship and ultimately aid in increasing the female population of the department.
Our mission is to encourage more women to enter into Computer Science and retain those already pursuing it by encouraging them to become more active in the Computer Science community.
WICS aims to fulfill this goal by initiating four sub-programmes:
1. Socials: Informal gathering of society members (namely alumni, lectures, post and under grad students). The socials take place in an informal setting.
2. Formal Talks: These talks focus on work done by women but in research and industry. The purpose of these talks is to expose students to the different opportunities that Computer Science offers.
3. Mentors: Senior students will be assigned as mentors to junior students. It is important that the relationship between mentees and mentors be clearly defined. The mentor will serve as a support and encourage her mentee(s). Mentors are NOT personal tutors.
4. Outreach: Encourage women to continue/join Computer Science. Outreach will be targeted at major decision making stages of a student’s carrier, namely: Third year, Honours and high school learners.