A true champion for women honoured

A true champion for women in the technology industry, Faculty of Arts and Science Professor Wendy Powley has earned yet another honour for supporting gender diversity in computing.

Computer Science Canada / Informatique Canada (CS-Can/Info-Can), a national professional organization for computer scientists that works with academic institutions, government agencies, industry, and other related professional societies to represent the computing research community and advocate for excellence in computer science education, recently honoured Powley with the Distinguished Services Award.

Powley, who says she is truly honoured to receive this recognition, notes women are greatly underrepresented in the tech industry, holding only about 25 per cent of the technical jobs.

“To me, this is unfortunate in an industry that offers lucrative careers in virtually every domain that you can imagine,” she says. “The tech industry is shaping the world in which we live, and it is important that we have everyone at the table to determine how this technology is built and used.

“Women often shy away from technical fields for a variety of reasons – media stereotypes, intimidation, and impostor syndrome to name a few. It is important that we welcome young women into the field, encourage them, and to point out all the benefits of a technical career.  It is so rewarding to me to see them embrace the field and its opportunities and to watch them flourish.”

Powley and the Queen’s Women in Computing Group (QWIC) founded and have been running the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing Conference for the past 12 years and in 2023, it will fall under the umbrella of CS-Can/Info-Can. She has been the lead for the conference for the past 12 years as it moved around the country (Toronto, London, Guelph, Waterloo, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax) and became a national event in 2016. In 2022 there were 650 in attendance.

“This conference offers women a chance to gather, unite, inspire and be inspired. Attendees are treated to a variety of speakers, panels, and workshops ranging from professional development tips such as branding, resume writing, interview skills to technical sessions and research presentations.  Our career fair features representatives from our many sponsors who are recruiting for full time employment or internships. For those from computing departments with few women (in some cases less than 10 per cent), it is refreshing and reaffirming to see so many women with similar interests. This conference has been my passion for many years, and I am excited to watch as it grows under new direction.”

With such a long and illustrious career, Powley has sage advice for women interested in pursuing a career in computing.

“Do it! No matter what your passion is, there is a place for you in tech and a need for computing knowledge, no matter what you end up doing.  Also, it is never too late. There are now many degree programs that allow you to cross over into tech from other areas of study, even after you have finished your undergraduate degree program.”

For more information about CS-Can/Info-Can, visit the website.