Thursday, December 20, 2007

Workshop on Women in TCS

The department of CS at Princeton University is hosting a "Women in Theory" student workshop in Princeton on June 14-18, 2008. See for more details and list of confirmed speakers. (Via in theory.)

I am happy to see an initiative like this. In fact, I believe that we should have more events that highlight the achievements of women in TCS and that offer prospective students role models that they can look up to.

During my student days in Pisa, I thought that it was very natural for CS classes to be attended by roughly an equal number of men and women. I also followed a good number of classes where lecturers or TAs were female members of staff. Back then, I never thought that computer science was a male-dominated subject, and I had no reason to think so. Only much later, did I realize that what I thought was the norm was, in fact, an exception and, by the time I taught a class in Aalborg that was being attended by only one female student out of about 50 registered students, the lack of women in CS was not a surprise to me any more.

It is still my impression that Italy has a fairly substantial number of female (theoretical) computer scientists---at least compared to countries in Northern Europe. People often ask me for the reasons behind this phenomenon, and I am always at a loss to try and explain it.

Do any of you have a good explanation why countries like France and Italy seem to suffer less than others from the lack of women in subjects like CS? Could it be that things are getting worse there too?

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