British Columbia

SFU summer program introduces female teens to technology of tomorrow

The two-week summer program encourages girls to study computer science and artificial intelligence to balance gender gap.

24 female high school students taking part in two-week course

Female students are introduced to computer sciences and artificial intelligence in a two-week summer course at SFU. (Denis Dossmann/CBC News)

Taylor Walters, a Grade 11 student from Vancouver Island, is one of 24 female students from across Canada taking part in a Simon Fraser University program that encourages girls to study computer science and artificial intelligence.

The goal of the two-week summer program is to balance the gender gap in these technological fields. Many of the positions in this sector are filled by men.

"When I read about computer scientists and their ground-breaking research and achievements it inspires me, yet I don't completely relate to them," Walters told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

"I have a difficult time seeing myself one day in their position because they tend to be older men."

Voices 'important'

The lack of representation of women in the technology field is an issue familiar to Angelica Lim,  the program's director, and assistant professor in the School of Computing Science.

It's something Lim said she's striving to change.

"I've been teaching the first-year computing students here at SFU and even at that first-year level, I'm seeing much interest [from women] in computing science... But there's so much need to support them," said Lim.

"We wanted to start early and just show that their voices and their contributions are important."

The program aims to balance the gender gap in technology by introducing female students to computer sciences at a younger age. (Denis Dossmann/ CBC News)

When technology is built and developed by people mainly from one gender — for example, men, which is the case in the technology sector — then that technology inevitably becomes skewed, Lim said.

During the program, students will live on campus while they are introduced to AI through a series of projects, field trips, and expert mentorship.

Leaders of tomorrow

Walters, who lists her passions as math, science, and philosophy, is a week into the program and says she's already been exposed to incredible women who have made great achievements in computer science and artificial intelligence.

"I believe that the role of technology in our society is only going to continue to grow in the future, so I'm excited to see where that can take us and I want to be a part of this innovation," said Walters.

Lim, whose work relies heavily on research, feels compelled to be an example to young female students interested in computer sciences.

 "I feel a certain responsibility, as someone who has gone through the field, to show what we are doing to the next generation because it's so important that we continue to grow these leaders in the field."

Listen to the full interview below;

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