Women in Computer Science Poster Series (Australian Edition)

Guest Author
22 Dec 2021
Pre-release Posters on display at GPN at ECU for feedback (Photos by Michelle Chomiak)
Michelle Chomiak

Michelle Chomiak

Michelle is a Secondary Digital Technologies and Computer Science teacher in a K-12 Independent co-ed school in Perth WA. She is primary trained but found that secondary better suited her skill-set and teaching style. Michelle came to teaching after a 15-year career in IT as a programmer and project manager in London and Perth. She draws on this experience to create a real-world context for her students and leverages her technical knowledge to run professional learning to help upskill other educators. She is currently studying an MEd(Digital Tech) at Sydney University.

Background

Many publications detail the history of computing or Computer Science, but women are often omitted from the detail, despite being featured in the images.

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Univac I at Census Bureau with two operators ca. 1960 U.S. Census Bureau employees, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

At the start of 2021, I was delighted to learn that I had great numbers for my Y9 elective class, 23 students in fact. Ever the realist, I was not expecting anything close to gender parity but was slightly disheartened to discover that all 23 students were boys. I wondered what I could do to increase the visibility of computing and to try and change the gendered bias and perception. I looked for a set of A4 posters about Women in Computing to display in my classroom to inspire my female students, along the lines of “If you can see her you can be her”. I found a fantastic set celebrating diversity created by CAS UK, a set of 6 created by Mr Gibson, and Notable Women in Tech set of cards by Susan Rodger but they all featured US and UK women with no Australian women. So I pretty soon realised that I might have to create my own. The idea hatched and I started working on it just before the winter (July) school holidays. It was originally intended for subject selection time which is early August, however, it took longer than expected. But where to start? Who to include?

Screenshot of Celebrating Diversity posters created by CAS UK
Screenshot of Celebrating Diversity posters created by CAS UK

Diversity

I was really conscious of representing diversity whilst still staying true to the theme. My school is really white with little diversity, but we are currently in the process of building a relationship with an Indigenous community school. I also have a colleague Anna Ritzema who is doing amazing things in the north of WA with Indigenous students, and I wanted these students to feel that they could see a role model that felt relevant to them. I also wanted to represent the diverse collection of nationalities that we have here in Australia, as well as a bit of gender diversity so non-binary students could also see some examples. Because representation matters.

Righto, Let’s Gather Some Names

I gathered names from various sources including Wikipedia, Twitter, the ACS, and recommendations from others. I started emailing them, 5 at a time so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed, explaining what I was trying to do and would they be interested in being featured? At the same time, I started to plan the poster layout. Now I’m no graphic artist but I knew I wanted something fairly plain which was easy to read, and so sought some tips from my GPN buddy Caitlin Bathgate. All participants were generous with their time, responding to my questions and emails. It has led to some great connections and wonderful conversations which was an unexpected delight. In some respects, I relished a valid reason to contact my idols and tried really hard not to fan-girl in my emails to them. Often, responses led to more suggestions and it snowballed from there.

I was putting this all together while on holiday with my family in Denham WA and Kalbarri WA on a mobile wi-fi hotspot. The internet was patchy at peak times being school holidays in tourist towns, so I did most of my emailing in the mornings!

Image of Denham by ExplorOz.com
Image of Denham by ExplorOz.com
Image of Kalbarri beach with a fishing rod by Michelle Chomiak
Image of Kalbarri beach with a fishing rod by Michelle Chomiak

I’m certain that without a doubt, I have missed some very deserving and notable ladies. There were so many others I could have included and could have easily made 80 posters, but the school term had started again, along with its workload pressures, so I had to stop and draw the line somewhere. Maybe at some point, I or someone else will do a v2.0.

Usage

This poster series has been created to complement initiatives such as the Girls Programming Network, WITWA, Code Like a Girl, SheCodes, and FiTT to support and promote girls and women in Computer Science. I chose to distribute it under a Creative Commons License (CC-BY-NC) so that it is accessible to everyone who might need it or want to use it. There are a lot of posters so it’s impractical to display them all. Teachers could display the set over a couple of rooms, or divide them into 4 groups with one for each term, or just display the ones relevant to their context.

Pre-release Posters on display at GPN at ECU for feedback (Photos by Michelle Chomiak)
Pre-release Posters on display at GPN at ECU for feedback (Photos by Michelle Chomiak)
Pre-release Posters on display at GPN at ECU for feedback (Photos by Michelle Chomiak)

Summary

Some absolute gems and highlights are receiving a response from Jeanette Wing who demonstrates that you can be a Computer Scientist and do ballet. Having a wonderful phone conversation with Jan Kornwiebel about her career path. Exchanging emails with and reading the books written by Sonja Bernhardt and Ann Moffat, meeting the deadly Cheryl Bailey on Zoom, and generally, all the wonderful support from the people featured. It has been well received so far with great feedback from other teachers, and I just hope that it inspires some girls to choose Computing because it is an interesting subject with huge potential.

I have other resources available for DT/CS teachers on my website http://mrschom.com.  This is also a great resource on how to increase the gender balance in computing. Link to download the poster series is below.

I acknowledge and pay my respects to Whadjuk Elders and Traditional Custodians of Noongar land, both past and present, and acknowledge their continuing cultures and connection to Country, on which this resource was created.

Women and Non-binary People in Computer Science  Poster Series Examples

Betty Holberton - Computer Scientist (1917 - 2001)
Mirka Miller - Computer Scientist (1949 - 2016)
Robyn Owens - Computer Science Researcher
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