Encouraging Women for Computer Science: womENcourage

02 October 2017 Comments Off on Encouraging Women for Computer Science: womENcourage

Last month, 15 students from Bilkent traveled to Barcelona, Spain, to attend “womENcourage 2017,” the fourth European ACM Celebration of Women in Computing, organized by ACM-W Europe. Held September 6–8 at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, the event drew more than 200 attendees, of which 17, including the Bilkent students, were from Turkey.

ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is described as “the world’s premier educational and scientific computing society.” The organization has student chapters at Bilkent: ACM Bilkent and ACM-W Bilkent, known as BILWIC (Women in Computing). Both chapters are working toward the ACM vision “to advance computing as a science and profession.” BILWIC, founded in 2004, was the first international ACM-W student chapter. One of its most notable achievements during the past year was organizing ACWIC, the first ACM Ankara Celebration of Women in Computing.

Reyyan Ayfer (Department of Computer and Instructional Technology Teacher Education), who is faculty advisor to both ACM Bilkent and ACM-W Bilkent, has served as an elected member of the ACM Europe Council for five years. She was also the founding chair of ACM-W Europe, which is dedicated to fulfilling the ACM-W mission to “support, celebrate and advocate for women” in Europe, and will continue to serve as the ACM-W vice chair. As a result of the work of ACM-W Europe, the number of ACM-W Chapters in Europe has increased significantly, so that this year 9 out of the total 26 Celebrations of Women in Computing worldwide took place in Europe.

Both male and female students from Bilkent received funding to attend womENcourage 2017, which included a hackathon, workshops, a career fair, talks and panels. The former chair of BILWIC, Aylin Çakal (CS/III), gave a presentation at the ACM Celebrations Workshop, where she shared her experiences as a leader and organizer of ACWIC, inspiring the attendees to work for more celebrations in Europe.

Summarizing her experience at womENcourage 2017, Aylin called it the best event she had attended this year. “I could attend all the workshops I wanted to and had the opportunity to communicate with speakers and participants from all over the world,” she said. “And a lot of companies such as HP, Accenture, Google, Oracle Academy, Bloomberg, Inria, Amazon and ThoughtWorks had booths at the career fair. One of these companies received my profile from the database and wanted to have a conversation with me regarding potential opportunities. The conference also gave us a chance to learn more about various controversial topics such as cybersecurity. Another highlight of womENcourage for me was giving a presentation at the workshop on ‘ACM Celebrations and ACM-W Chapters,’ where I described BILWIC’s experience in organizing ACWIC and also gave some brief information about our chapter.”

What did BILWIC members say about their experiences at womENcourage?
Seçil Genç: Listening to the experiences of women in computing and being able to communicate with the sponsors (Google, HP and so on) so easily was great.

Nurhan Güner: This event showed me that by working together, engineers can address social problems very effectively.

Ümran Bingöl: First of all, I’m very happy that I was able to attend such an event. It was very exciting to see and meet a lot of women from all over the world. I believe being exposed to different perspectives, different informatics projects and different cultures was my greatest reward. I’m very lucky to have been involved in such an event and to be part of ACM-W.

Aybüke Ertrekin: This was an international event, which gave us the opportunity to meet new people from other countries, advance our knowledge by attending technical sessions and learn about career opportunities at the career fair.

BILWIC’s first meeting of the semester will take place this Thursday, October 5. The organization has great plans for the coming year. The new BILWIC chair, Kübra Güzel (CS/III), says: “We’re planning to organize many events in addition to ACWIC, including meetings with Bilkent graduates and technical sessions about hot topics in CS like machine learning. We invite all Bilkenters to join us and become a part of our family!”

For more information: bilwic@bilkent.edu.tr