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Women-only team a first at competition

U of M computer science majors headed to Montreal for CS Games

Posted: 01/31/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 01/31/2014 7:34 AM | Updates

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Computer science team captain Diana Carrier (front, from left), Shelby Bernhard and Hayley Guillou are heading to Montreal, along with Vanessa Reimer (rear, from left) Adrienne Pind, Lauren Slusky and Caitlin Martins.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Computer science team captain Diana Carrier (front, from left), Shelby Bernhard and Hayley Guillou are heading to Montreal, along with Vanessa Reimer (rear, from left) Adrienne Pind, Lauren Slusky and Caitlin Martins. Photo Store

So it's 2014, and somehow the smartest person in the room might also be the only woman in the room.

Lauren Slusky always knows how many women are in her computer science courses at the University of Manitoba, because she counts them -- if any.

"I'm glad I'm not the only one who counts women in my classes," laughed Diana Carrier.

Doesn't take great counting skills, said Slusky: "In third year and higher, only three per cent are women."

U of M's official figures say 19 of the current 144 computer science majors are women, the program with the greatest gender disparity on a campus on which the majority of students is female.

Officials were not immediately available to discuss the program's gender disparity.

Of those 19 students, 11 are heading to Montreal in March to compete as the first-ever all-woman team in the international CS Games.

"It's definitely unprecedented," said Carrier, a Stonewall Collegiate grad.

Three days in Montreal, most of it spent online doing things most of us wouldn't understand.

The CS Games aren't high-powered in terms of big prizes but there are usually recruiters there from outfits such as Google or Microsoft -- you might have heard of them.

"The ultimate best case is you get hired by Google or Microsoft," said Carrier.

"You can put it on your resumé," pointed out Shelby Bernhard, a Westwood Collegiate grad.

The young women cite plenty of reasons women are so few in computer science -- a lack of early and ongoing encouragement to get into the field, few specific programs in high school, the whole nerd stereotype, which they reject, but which they say some boys and young men embrace. Even toy stores still push boys towards science stuff and girls to the Barbies, the women said.

"My high school only had three people in computer science -- I was one of them," said Carrier.

Slusky, a grad of the Gray Academy of Jewish Education, said computer science students have a rep among other students: "When you try to talk to someone in your class, they kind of move away from you," she laughed.

"The girls who go into computer science are quite determined," declared Vanessa Reimer, a grad of Steinbach Regional Secondary School.

"My teacher (in high school) was the one who encouraged me -- he saw I was good," said Glenlawn Collegiate grad Caitlin Martins.

Yes, there is a men's team going from U of M as well, and there'll be a few women scattered among the dozens of teams competing.

U of M has covered the women's registration, but they're hoping for sponsors to pay for their air fare to Montreal. You can help at CSgirls2014@gmail.com.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2014 B2

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Updated on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 7:34 AM CST: Replaces photo

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