We need to hear more about the women who have made breakthroughs in computer science. That’s the opinion of UT professors Marieke Huisman, Mariëlle Stoelinga, programme director Alma Schaafstal and PhD candidate Sophie Lathouwers. And that’s why they are organizing a congress and exhibition, titled ‘Alice & Eve: a celebration of women in computing’. It spotlights twenty women in IT and highlights their most important contributions. The exhibition will open on 24 January in the Zilverling building at the University of Twente. The congress will take place on the same day, with various female speakers from the world of IT.
When you think of pioneers in computer science, names like Alan Turing, Edsger Dijkstra, Gordon Moore, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates probably spring to mind. ‘There are no women on that list. But that’s strange, because they have made important contributions to IT,’ says Mariëlle Stoelinga. ‘We want to start to change that perception. We show how Ada Lovelace came up with the first ever algorithm, for example. And how Grace Hopper devised the first working compiler, an indispensable program that translates programming languages into instructions that a computer can actually execute. Then there’s Qiheng Hu, who connected China to the internet – the list goes on and on.’
‘IT can seem like a man's world’, continues Marieke Huisman. ‘But that’s a shame because research has repeatedly shown that diverse teams actually perform better. Teams with a good mix of men and women, young and old, ethnic minority and ethnic majority people generate more creative and innovative ideas. Role models are extremely important when it comes to attracting more women into IT. That’s exactly what we hope to achieve with this. We want to show that the work women do really matters and that they’re responsible for some crucial breakthroughs.’
- The ‘computer girls’ at the Mathematics Centre in Amsterdam, who programmed the first electronic computer in the Netherlands - ARRA II. This led to their involvement in the development of the Fokker F27, the world’s first successful passenger aircraft. In addition, these brilliant women also made a crucial contribution to the Algol 60 and Algol 68 programming languages. The structure of today’s programming languages, such as Python and Java script, can be traced directly to Algol.
- No story is complete without a bit of romance, and this one’s no different: one of the twelve computer girls - try finding an IT department with twelve female programmers these days, by the way - would later go on to marry Edsger Dijkstra, the Netherlands' best-known computer scientist of all time. Almost nobody knows that his wife was also a computer scientist with a very distinguished record of service.
The title of the exhibition, ‘Alice & Eve: a celebration of women in computing’ refers to the iconic names used in computer communication protocols, in which Alice and Bob exchange messages, which are then intercepted by Eve. Showcasing the life and work of twenty female computer scientists, the exhibition offers an impressive portrait of women whose work has mostly remained in the shadows. The exhibition will open on 24 January, in the Zilverling building at the University of Twente. The portraits have also been compiled in a booklet that accompanies the exhibition.
On the opening day of the exhibition, on 24 January from 12.00 in the Zilverling building, a congress with female IT speakers will also be held. ‘This conference is explicitly not about gender issues in the IT world,’ explains Stoelinga. ‘We simply want to show that women have done some crucial work, and that it is quite normal to see women among the top scientists in the field.’
The programme is diverse and includes speakers from science and business who will talk about the IT-related aspects of their respective fields, such as quantum computing, programming for everyone, cyber security and human computing.