Eleven female staff from CERN’s IT department were kept under close surveillance yesterday, shadowed by female students from a local high school as part of the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project.
The Shadowing Day aimed to inspire young women into careers in information technology by passing on the message that careers in science are open to both men and women, and can be rewarding and fun.
The students were given a tour of physics experiment ATLAS and the CERN Computer Centre, as well as the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with CERN IT staff.
Traditionally, fewer women work in the IT sector; women currently represent 21% of EGEE staff. The Shadowing Day was held as part of the EGEE Gender Action Plan, reflecting a commitment to reducing this gender gap. Other initiatives include the adoption of best practices and equal opportunity policies for EGEE and collaborating projects.
iSGTW headed to CERN to hear from those involved in the Shadowing Day...
Actions like this Shadowing Day are a terrific opportunity to increase interest in computing careers. Females have traditionally been underrepresented in fields like science and IT, so today is all about encouraging young women to consider careers in scientific computing. By meeting and shadowing CERN staff over the course of a working day, we hope to show that computing offers innovative, international and exciting career options. We fully support these educational efforts to raise awareness of our future-driven and expanding industry.
I have made several presentations throughout my career, to different people of different ages, but never to such a young group nor about myself and my career. It was a very interesting experience, and I hope I was able to transmit a few basic messages that will stick and maybe help them now or later on in their careers. If the day is a success, which I sincerely hope it is, I would like to think that we could widen the experience to other local schools in our Host States, and widen the scope from IT to other scientific domains present here at CERN.
Qihui, student and shadower
Even though we use IT in daily life, we don’t know so much about it. IT seems close, but it is actually very far away from our studies. Today I wanted to see how IT actually worked, and to have a view on what is developing or improving. I learned that IT is a really interesting field, and the people working on IT are great. Women in IT are just as powerful as men.
Adriana, student and shadower
I had never really thought about IT until today. I was interested in IT, but had never really thought about a career in it. I learned many things about programming and about how vast this field is. I also learned about the diversity of IT and could see all the different jobs that women can do in IT.
Rossella Cosso and Ian Collins
Our school provides equal opportunities for every student, irrespective of gender, religion, background, whatever. Days like this help to make our students aware that there is a gender issue in some workplaces.
It’s very useful for any high school student—boy or girl—to participate in a day like this, because they don't have a complete idea of what it’s like in the workplace. They think about “careers” but don’t necessarily know what that means, what the daily routine is. To promote a career you have to show.what that career is about.
Amanda, student and shadower
My knowledge of IT was limited, but I thought it was a subject with many frontiers and opportunities. I learned about EGEE and its numerous applications, many of which have yet to be explored. I also learned that it is normal to change fields many times. My interest in IT has been broadened and the realities of a woman’s experience in this field incite me to take steps in directions I haven’t before considered.
Women in IT can help to remove prejudices and encourage change, both socially and professionally. Days like this help students to make choices by giving them one more point of view. It is important that such opportunities are given also to pupils of public or state schools, where parents might have a different professional background. These children often will not have the financial backing from their family and its contacts to plan their studies and career, hence the need to obtain advice elsewhere about possibilities for themselves.
Being a female in the world of computing has opened up opportunities—and increased risks. You are more easily noticed—and remembered—so you need to be doing a good job! My personal experience at CERN has been of a conscious effort to help advance the career of female staff, although subconscious, more negative reactions based on long-standing preconceptions of the female role certainly still happen.
Today was a success not only because the students came out of it with encouraging feedback, but also because it gave the shadowees the opportunity to assess their roles as women in IT, and to appreciate their achievements. The day engendered awareness of the diversity of IT roles for the students, while enlightening the shadowees as to how traditional gender barriers are being broken down by the new generation of women in IT and engineering. I’d like to think this will encourage women working in these roles to further spread the word about their experiences and careers, and hopefully capture the interest of women worldwide.
Maria Alandes Pradillo
The shadowing day has been an opportunity to meet IT women and female students of Collège du Léman. It’s been very interesting to hear about the motivation of women who have been working at CERN for more than 20 years, and to know about the motivation and expectations of young girls. It has been very enriching to take part in this event.
Adriana, my shadower, was very patient and listened to all that I tried to say and explain to her. I am afraid I spoke too much, but at the end of the day she managed to ask questions! IT—or computing in general—is so vast that it is difficult to explain what kind of job you may have in this area. I think the main benefit for the students was to have some view of what a working day can be like—for women and men alike—in a large organization like CERN, which is probably very different from what they learn at school.
Anna Cook and Linga Kalinde
Our role as Gender Action Plan coordinators comes as part of the EGEE project package and is an initiative we enjoy and feel motivated by. Our activities contribute to raising gender awareness and educating young women to know that opportunities in their professional life will be diverse and plentiful, and that so many doors are open to them. IT is among those opportunities, and is a field in which their input is needed.