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Proud to be women in research !

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Anke Brock and Maria Kazolea have recently joined Inria Bordeaux – Sud-Ouest as junior researchers. We share their experiences and reflections on the role of women in computer science.

Anke Brock has had an unusual career. After graduating with an engineering degree, she spent five years in Germany working as an R&D engineer in the automobile industry before moving to the University of Toulouse to study for a Masters’ degree. That was quickly followed by a PhD and a position as a post-doc researcher. Today, she is a researcher in the POTIOC project team at Inria Bordeaux – Sud-Ouest where she specialises in human-machine interactions for mass-market applications.“Our aim is todesign, prototype and evaluate computer systems for use by humans”,she explains,“The use of interactive geographical maps has always been a common feature of my work.As a PhD student, I worked on maps for the partially sighted.Since then, I have concentrated on interactive systems for scientific education and public awareness.I do a lot of collaborative work with Cap Sciences, the exploratory and museum of science, technology and industry in Bordeaux”.

Maria Kazolea, on the other hand, was educated in Greece at the University of Crete, moving to the Technical University of Crete to take a PhD in 2013 with a thesis on the mathematical and computer modelling of the generation and propagation of waves in marine and coastal environments. After two years at the Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas, she joined the CARDAMOM research team at Inria Bordeaux – Sud-Ouest in 2014. This team focuses on the development and numerical certification of complex models of fluid flows.“My interest in waves, especially large ones and those generated by earthquakes and landslips, must have something to do with my country having so many islands”,she explains,I am also very interested in applied and computational mathematics, as these are the key to advancing our knowledge in a solid practical way.I enjoy working in a field that combines mathematics, physics and coastal engineering”.

Computers are no longer just for the boys

Anke and Maria are both passionate about their jobs, and neither regrets having chosen a career in science and research, although they differ in their views of the degree to which women have been welcomed into their respective professional fields. “When the first computers were developed in the 1960s, computer science was seen as a job for women.However, this has slowly been reversed over the past thirty years, and men have gradually taken over”, believes Anke Brock, “This is often attributed to the ‘geek effect’, but it often has its origins in the home, where computers are more often bought for boys”.With strong views on the subject, Anke Brock has been an active member of the Femmes & Sciences association since she arrived in Bordeaux. One of her many actions has been to help with the organisation of the ACM womENcourage 2015 conference, due to take place in Sweden this coming September.“It is important for women to feel welcome in the computer science community. Presenting a feminine point of view can only enrich the community as a whole”,she believes.

Maria Kazolea, on the other hand, cannot recall any discrimination at all during her career. “While it is true that fewer women are attracted to computer science than mathematics, I have never felt treated any differently, nor have I received any unwelcome comments. In the team I work in now, there are just as many women as men”.

Keywords: Science Interviews International Women’s Day Portrait