University of Edinburgh Hoppers Society
What’s the purpose of your group?
As the official society for women in informatics at the University of Edinburgh our goal is to cultivate an open community with the aim to provide a supportive and inclusive society where people are comfortable and build both technical and networking skills to thrive in the technology environment.
In order to do so, we organise events where we cooperate with large and small companies to provide our members with the best opportunities and contacts to build a career. Our focus is to empower all women and non-binaries in technology.
Who are your members? What work are they involved in?
Our members include any female student or staff member in the School of Informatics or who take School of Informatics Courses.
What are the biggest challenges for your members?
We think the biggest challenge encountered is the view of Informatics as a men’s field. Even though the industry and academia has started making efforts to promote the importance of us, the women, in this field, we can still feel that this domain is dominated by men in both academia and industry. At our university, in a lecture theatre of 200- 300 people studying Informatics, you can only see at most 30-40 women in it. Many members of our group feel insecure as a result of being a minority and they might feel that they won’t have as many opportunities to stand out.
Even though our members face this challenge, it feels easier to deal with by having the help of the School of Informatics. The School of Informatics has offered an amazing support to promote more tech opportunities to our members and to help them rise and shine hopefully, we will be able to get more and more women interested in Tech through our work.
What are the ambitions of your members, generally?
One pattern spotted at every student part of this university, no matter what degree they pursue, is the desire to fight to accomplish their dreams. Maybe it sounds like a cliché, but it is the most forthright ambition encountered in every individual who decides to enlist in this notorious university. When it comes to our members, we can say that their biggest dream is to get the most out of studying Informatics so they can either become a highbrow researcher/academician or getting a job in the industry that could make a difference worldwide. As mentioned previously, our work comprises of aiding women and non-binary people as well as empowering them to excel in the field of Informatics, no matter what path they choose to succeed in. Because Informatics is a broad subject with golden potential both in research and industry, we are trying to diversify our events as much as possible, so our members could have a bigger panel to select speaking about the professional future. Last semester, we were running interview preparation workshops for women who wanted to obtain a job in the industry. Apart from that, we try to have a balanced mix of academic talks as well as panels of discussion about working as a Computer Scientist in the industry.
Nonetheless, we can conclude that every year, women studying technology related subjects make their presence visible within the university. Some notable examples include: the director of this year HacktheBurgh, the hackathon organised by the university, was a woman and the co-founder of the society for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence is a female Phd student studying Data Science.
Why is it important for women to go in to your area of work?
A lot of specialists consider this period as ‘The Era of Information’ and without any doubt, it is indeed. We reckon everyone can notice that the day to day activity for the majority of people is highly digitized and obviously this happens because of this area of work. The most amazing thing that Informatics is doing is connecting the world. For example, if you want to talk to your friend from the other corner of the world, you use an application to talk to them. How can it not be important for women to work in Informatics, if today this field is trying to include everyone and to ease everyone’s daily routine? Apart from that, our group considers that every minority should have representatives working in this area, because of the broadness of this field are indeed very happy to see that more and more workplaces are giving opportunities to people coming from different minorities.
What do you want to see change, if anything?
Gladly, the School of Informatics is offering all of its support to encourage the women studying Informatics to develop their Tech skills. You can see that Hoppers has been active for almost 15 years and the group has been an important part of the School of Informatics. The society has been created by a group of female teaching staff part of the School in order to empower the women working or studying in the field. Over the years, the society has been more students – focused but we keep an amazing relationship with the School and they are always for us to support us.
We think change-wise, we should try to emphasize more and more how fun and rewarding is working in Computer Science or Technology for girls studying in high school, so they could choose a degree in Computer Science.
This year for our International Women’s day event we had invited high school girls from Edinburgh to attend our event. We had put on beginner-friendly tech workshops for them to trigger their interest in tech. We consider more university societies, especially societies related to degree should organise more workshops or talks for highschool students to promote their degree and to give them an insight about how it is like to study something like this. We think this could be beneficial for the upcoming students, because they will be more informed and will be able to make a better decision regarding their further studies.
All in all, we consider that the university should try to open up some of their activity to girls studying in high school, apart from Open Days activities, to get more women into tech. It would be really nice to see more events like workshops, talk or insight programmes organised by the university aimed just for teenagers interested in tech.
What can we expect from your group for next semester, activities – wise?
As part of our yearly repertoire, we have the events organised to celebrate the impact of Ada Lovelace in Informatics in October and the achievements of women worldwide in the world of Science organised on the 8th of March for the International Women’s Day.
Moreover, we have already changed the structure of the committee. We have split the committee into Departments: Media, Sponsorships, Socials, Volunteers, Big Events, Tech and Executive. Each department has a head and 2 – 3 coordinators. We made this change in order to involve more women in our committee and help them to gain valuable skills. The departments are in the process of organising exciting events for our members. Apart from that, next year represents an important year for Hoppers. The society is celebrating 15 years of existence. We will definitely hold a fabulous event to celebrate it.
For more updates about our events and activity, you are invited to check our Facebook page and to join our Facebook group.
Tell us any fun facts: any recent events, awards, trips?
A huge achievement is what we hosted on the 8th March 2019, which is International Women’s Day, with special guests who were students from St George’s School for Girls. This amazing event started off with lunch followed by two inspirational talks about their life and careers from Dr Laura Sevilla and Dr Kami Vaniea. This was followed by two workshops which were about blockchain, led by Dr Bettina Nissen, and microbits led by the Embedded and Robotics Society (EaRs).
The biggest event of the day was the ‘Gender Pay Gap Panel’. Panel members included Prof. Jane Hillston, Prof. Barbara Webb, Fiona Sutherland, Sara Stamenov and former Hoppers’ president Silvia Colombo.
The School of Informatics has amazing support to promote more tech opportunities to our members and to help them rise and shine hopefully, we will be able to get more and more women interested in Tech through our work