A Qatar-based university has taken steps to tackle the challenge of attracting women into science and technology, saying that it seeks to mend female underrepresentation in computer science.
Hosting CS4Qatar for Women, an outreach programme that aims to introduce young women to computer science and explore career possibilities in the field, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar is confident it will make an impact.
"Overall, the purpose of CS4Qatar is to change social perspectives on computing as a profession - to push for it to be considered on equal footing with what are considered more traditional career routes," Khaled Harras, computer science professor, said. "Qatar aims to become a knowledge-based economy and it cannot do so without having a clear understanding of computer sciences. Carnegie Mellon is taking these measures to spread awareness about this economically vital domain," he said.
More than 90 female high-school students from schools across Qatar attended the event that consisted of a panel discussion session and two hands-on sessions. One session focused on programming with Alice, an object-based, 3-D graphics-creating tool, and the other on puzzles and problem solving, university officials said.
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Speaking about her experiences in the field
"Computer science is an exciting subject," panelist Reem Al Mansoori, development manager at ICT Qatar said. "Working at ictQATAR provided me with a great opportunity to contribute to Qatari society and play a significant role in taking a fast-developing nation forward. Moreover, as a practice, it presents a plethora of opportunities. The applications of the field are boundless and women play a vital role in this field," she said.
Technology has removed many cultural barriers and opportunities that were limited in the past have now expanded through technological development, she said.
During the event young women and their parents were introduced to the field and learned about the important role they can play in this domain.
We need the creative impetus of female practitioners. There are many powerful role models for Qatari women," Harras said.
CS4Qatar is a series of computer science workshops designed by Carnegie Mellon for both computer science educators as well as high school students in Qatar. In April, the university will host a CS4Qatar workshop on opportunities for undergraduate research in computer science, paneled by female computer science students and professionals from Qatar.