A small note about being a woman in computer science

Today I attended an event about women in Computer Science (CS). I have attended many of them before. I was surprised that the same issues were discussed again and again after more than 15 years. I also heard of stories of women being advised against a career in CS or specific CS subjects. I also heard about sexual harassment at technical conferences.

I don’t know why (maybe I was very lucky), but I can’t remember experiencing much of these. Maybe my worst experience was when I attended a formal dinner for professors in Science & Engineering (I just became professor): there was 120 attendees and about 10 women. I didn’t understand the dress code (lounge suits) and I arrived with black jeans, black top and boots: one professor asked me for the “wine”.

One recommendation I often hear is to find a role model. I didn’t have any role model. Also why do I want to be like somebody? This does not mean that I was not inspired by people (men and women).

I was lucky to work with people that have been very supportive, in particular in helping me with my lack of confidence (which is still there). Those are the people who made a big difference to me, and have helped me to reach where I am.

Some people tried to help me to become more “successful” (whatever this means!): be more aggressive, speak more, speak louder, be more up-front, … , all things that I have always been struggling with. I did try to follow their advises as I wanted to be “more successful”. I even attended a voice course. I learned that to get a deeper voice, I should push my tummy out!!! No way 🙂

I really appreciate people trying to make me “more successful” … but after a while … I said “this is not me, it does not make me happy, and I don’t want it”.

What I am trying to say: listen to advices and recommendations, and decide what is RIGHT for you. Change what YOU think should change while remaining you. Take responsibility. And enjoy being you.

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