The College of Informatics (COI) at Northern Kentucky University has increasingly become a home for women in the informatics field. Ranking No. 1 in the state for awarding the most Computer Science degrees to women, Griffin Hall seems like the perfect location for women to work toward their academic goals.
However, women in male-dominated fields, like those found within the tech degrees in the COI, feel like a minority and face struggles associated with that path to success.
“There may be only one or two females in a class, especially in the Computer Science department,” Professor Sarah Mann says about women in the COI. “Oftentimes, they feel inferior and don’t ask questions to their male counterparts in the class, as the men tend to be the ones who are more outspoken.”
To combat this feeling of exclusion and intimidation in the classroom, Women in Informatics was formed. With primary goals to promote growth, support and opportunity for women in the college, the student organization is an outlet to make female students feel comfortable and achieve success in their majors.
One opportunity that Women in Informatics is able to offer to its members is attending TRIWiC, a conference celebrating Women in Computing. This year's conference, hosted during February in Richmond, Kentucky, gave students the opportunity to learn from women in technology. NKU was able to support all 30 students in attendance with scholarships to attend the conference at no cost.
Dr. Maureen Doyle, chair of the Computer Science department, says she is “thrilled TRIWiC thrives and continues,” as she recalls the first TRIWiC conference hosted back in 2011.
Both the Women in Informatics organization and events like the TRIWiC Conference allow women to gain support and understanding of the struggles they face in a male-dominated field, and eventually change the norm.
Professor Mann, reflecting on a conversation she had with a freshman, says one struggle women face is that they often “did not get an opportunity in high school to learn about technology,” while men are more likely to have experimented with, and been encouraged to pursue, computer science, programming and coding from a younger age.
With a major goal of creating a mentorship program for freshmen in the college, the Women in Informatics organization is pushing for retention and recruitment of women in Computer Science, Business Informatics and Communication Studies.
“We want to give women a comfortable zone where they can come together and learn without feeling intimidated," Professor Mann says.