Global Site Navigation (use tab and down arrow)

Associated Alumni

Computer Science hosts girls' hour of code

The faculty of computer science wants to teach girls to code.

Through a series of hands-on sessions, Natalia Stakhanova, assistant professor in computer science at UNB, wants to engage young girls in information and communication technology and show them the possibilities for women in this field.

According to Stakhanova, who is also the New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Cyber Security, women are reluctant to enter and stay in IT. When asked why, she quoted Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, in an interview with Fortune magazine. “Women don’t enter the field because, ‘No. 1, they think they won’t like it, No. 2 they think they won’t be good at it, and No. 3 they think the people who major in computer science are geeks who have no life, and they don’t want to be seen as that.’”

“I want to change this.”

On Nov. 28, the faculty held CyberGirlz Hour of Code for girls ages eight to 10.

“We had 10 girls attend,” says Stakhanova. “The focus was to introduce them to programming in a fun and friendly environment. They were taken through a series of exercises, each introducing a programming concept.”

UNB first offered a CyberGirlz summer camp in 2013, and saw great success. Stakhanova is hoping to build on this initiative by offering girls a more continuous program.

The second session, held on Jan. 16, had 21 girls looking inside computers and learning how they worked. They also had a chance to take one apart.

“Girls are in the minority in many STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines,” says Stakhanova. “When it comes to IT, it is not an exception. Even if girls end up entering the field, they often leave experiencing 'impostor syndrome', the feeling that they do not belong.”

Stakhanova wants girls to know that computer science can be fun and interesting – and that girls can excel in the field.

“I hope through our CyberGirlz series, we will be able to boost girls’ confidence and nurture their interest for the field of computer science.”

The next CyberGirlz session will be held on Feb. 13.

Back to Alumni News Direct - January 2016