The conference was held in honour of Anita Borg, an American computer scientist who relentlessly fought to ensure that technology has a positive impact on people’s lives. Borg was born on 17th February, and to celebrate her birthday, along with her achievements, over 40 Women in Computing Conferences are held across the world.
Although women have played a crucial role in the evolution of computing, it is still a highly male-dominated field and this is one of the reasons the conference was initiated.
The Dean of the NUST Faculty of Computing and Informatics, Dr Anicia Peters, a 2012 recipient of the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for Women in Computer Science in the US, vowed that she would contribute to encouraging young girls to pursue studies in this field. She said: “It is not easy, but it can be done. I am a mother, a wife and a sister, and despite all these roles, I was still determined to be a top performer in my studies, and I made it. I’d like to encourage all women to let us write our own stories in Anita Borg’s legacy, right here in Namibia.”
Topics presented at the conference focused mainly on retention and providing role models and mentors to graduates and students. Ebru Celik, a Technical Programme Manager at Google, engaged attendants via livestream from Bulgaria. She shared her successes and challenges and said it is important to change the future for women and prove that one’s gender must not have any bearing on one’s profession.
NUST Vice-Chancellor, Tjama Tjivikua, said: “I am encouraged by a recent study on women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, indicating that in many developed countries, institutional gender bias is no longer a significant factor impacting negatively on women’s careers in most academic STEM fields, but concerted policy interventions are still needed in some of the fields. More importantly, it was recognised that achieving gender parity in STEM fields relies upon a solid foundation in mathematics for girls as well as for boys.”
The event concluded with the drawing up of a database of all the participants, aimed at creating a platform where local women can interact and contribute to the development of the industry.