Diary of a computer scientist or: How to inspire girls for technology & computer science?” (Hexagonal diskutiert)

DATE:Monday, January 20, 2020
VENUE:Future Learning Lab Wien, Daumegasse 5, 1100 Vienna, Austria

“Girls lose interest in MINT subjects between the ages of 11 and 15. (UNESCO Cracking the Code)”

On 20 January 2020, representatives of Austrian organizations interested in the topic of under representation of school girls in MINT fields, gatheredat the discussion panel with a title “Diary of a Computer Scientist – How to get girls excited about technology & computer science?” The event was organized by the Future Learning Lab Vienna together with the Vienna Center for Logic and Algorithms (VCLA) of the TU Wien. More in German language here


An important aim of the event was to bring together people and organizations that have been leading interesting initiatives on the topic of “Girls 4 MINT” for years throughout Austria. The abbreviation MINT stands for the fields of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology. Evelyn Süss-Stepancik, Vice Rector of the Vienna University of Education, held the opening remarks. Prof. Martina Lindorfer (TU Wien), winner of the Hedy Lamarr Prize 2019 of the City of Vienna, gave a thematic introduction in which addressed, among other, the obstacles that women have to overcome in the field of computer science and how MINT can help shape competences. Afterwards, eight female stakeholders from all over Austria presented their activities and research projects in the area of “Girls 4 MINT” in short speeches.

The participating organizations presented projects of the Vienna Center for Logic and Algorithms (VCLA) of the TU Wien, the Office for Gender Equality and Women’s Advancement of the Graz University of Technology, IT-Women of the OCG, PH Wien, the KinderUni of the University of Vienna, the EU Code Week in Austria, MINT Salzburg, the OVE-Fem initiative Girls! TECH UP initiative, and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).

Testimonials of teachers, researchers, and NGOs working towards gender equality in STEM

After a break with networking opportunities, questions that arose during the impulse speeches were discussed. Educational systems and schools play a central role in determining the interest of girls in MINT subjects and in ensuring equal access to and use of high-quality MINT education. The distortion of self-selection when girls and women have chosen not to study or pursue a MINT career seems to play a key role, as girls often do not consider MINT professions to be compatible with their gender. Even if girls themselves do not support these stereotypes, knowing that people in their immediate environment have such beliefs can undermine girls’ confidence and thus their performance and intention to pursue MINT careers. Dr. Sabine Zauchner-Studnicka (OCG IT-Women): “Parents and the media are forgotten target groups when it comes to promoting girls in MINT. For example, where do female scientists appear in the media?

Furthermore, the girls’ self-confidence, motivation and sense of belonging are influenced by the “peer climate”. Girls need support to develop positive mathematical and scientific identities, belief in their abilities and a sense of belonging in MINT studies and careers. This can be done by making girls more familiar with MINT experiences or by establishing links with role models. “Opportunities for hands-on experience with MINT, including practical exercises, internships, career guidance and mentoring, can broaden girls’ understanding of MINT studies and careers and keep their interest alive,” said Ruth Mayr (MINT Salzburg).


The event concluded with a summary and an outlook for the future, on which everyone agreed: It would be desirable to have a common community of practice and an Austria-wide platform on which projects can be planned together and experiences can be exchanged. The result of the meeting was the creation of a common digital platform, which would enable the coordination of activities across the provinces.

At the same time, the event was the start of the Austria-wide project “Diary of the Computer Scientist”, part of the project ADA – Algorithms Thinking Differently. This project aims to dispel the common image that computer science is a purely male domain and give girls the opportunity to meet female role models, e.g. successful female computer scientists, in person. The pilot phase of the activity will bring female computer scientists to schools in Graz, Linz, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna at the end of January 2020. About 300 girls will participate in the pilot workshops.

The demand from schools was much higher than we had imagined,” says Agata Ciabattoni, Professor of Logic in Computer Science at the Vienna University of Technology. However, due to the immense interest in the workshops, the organizers are already planning the next round of workshops for 2021, and 2022. The ADA project is funded by the Vienna Business Agency and the BMVIT.


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