November 5, 2004
Lilia Kakaradova, assistant professor of computer applications at the University of Maine at Fort Kent recently participated in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Chicago.
The event, which is named in honor of Navy Admiral Grace Hopper, a female pioneer in the field of mathematics and computer science, was the fifth in a series of conferences designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront.
Presenters were leaders in their respective fields, representing industrial, academic and government communities. Leading researchers presented their current work while special sessions focused on the role of women in today's technology field.
Kakaradova was one of the invited speakers at the women of color workshop held on October 7, the second day of the conference.
The workshop focused on brainstorming the ideas to increase the number of women of color in computing, mathematics, science and engineering in academia.
"It is well known that graduate programs in academic and research institutions are looking to increase the number of woman from under presented minority groups. I wanted to share that UMFK offers students a great opportunity to take advantage of courses in computer applications and study the difficult field of computer science in a very friendly and caring way that is centered on the student's success in an understanding environment as opposed to the very high competitive and aggressive atmosphere in bigger technical universities and educational institutions where typically women of color feel lost under a very dynamic deadline programming projects submissions approach," said Kakaradova.
According to Kakaradova, most of the problems that have led to a lack of women in color in computer science classes can be attributed to the lack of confidence that has been historically built during the not so long history of computer science and its applications. The second problem she cites is that computer science discoveries by women of color are usually not visible to the public and are less advertised in the media.
The second part of the workshop concentrated on the important problem of how to keep women of color in the engineering fields not just in academic institutions, but also in engineering industries and businesses.
"The new paradigm of graduate research work is collaborative PhD programs which the University of Maine System just started building in computer science programs. It will greatly benefit our computer applications students and more specifically women of color who attend UMFK and enroll in computer applications classes," said Kakaradova.
The third part of the women of color workshop during the conference was built around connections with National Science Foundation leader Jan Cuny, a program chair at the conference, Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, and the keynote speaker Shirley Malcom.
Kakaradova plans to keep and develop the connections built during the conference with these three key figures in the future.