FAU Student Group Celebrates Women in Computing

ACM-W has more than 100 chapters worldwide, and supports, celebrates, and advocates internationally for the full engagement of women in all aspects of the computing field.

Shiree Hughes, pictured in the first row second from right, founded FAU's chapter of ACM-W, celebrating women in computing.


By kelsie-weekes | 9/9/2016

Search statistics about women studying or working in the field of engineering and computer science and it won’t be hard to find that they are often under-represented in all areas. For Shiree Hughes, this is not only something she’d like to change, but she’s made it her mission to do so.

Hughes, a Ph.D. student studying computer science at Florida Atlantic University, founded the Association for Computing Machinery-Women (ACM-W) chapter at FAU one year ago. She says she got the idea after hearing her female peers complain about feeling alone in a male-dominated classroom.

“I wanted to find a way to introduce all these girls to each other and make them realize they’re not alone,” she said. “Computer science is largely made up of men, so this group provides a support system for us.”

ACM-W has more than 100 chapters worldwide, and supports, celebrates, and advocates internationally for the full engagement of women in all aspects of the computing field, providing a wide range of programs and services to ACM members and working in the larger community to advance the contributions of technical women.

The FAU ACM-W chapter is made up of more than 15 women majoring in computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering. Their mission is not entirely focused on their areas of study – they also get together once a month to have a movie night, game night or simply hang out. Hughes says the biggest goal of the group is to build connections, and more importantly, confidence.

“Guys tend to dominate the conversations in class so it’s easy for girls to hide in the corner,” she said. “I want them to feel comfortable enough to say, ‘I know what I’m doing.’”

Hughes has been working hard to get additional funding for ACM-W so she can expand her outreach efforts. She recently applied for and was awarded $5,000 from the National Center for Women & IT (NCWIT) and Google, money she says will help her recruit new members and build partnerships with local middle schools.

“One of my biggest goals is to bring computing to younger girls, especially in middle school,” she said. “I want them to be exposed to it early on so they can decide to pursue computing in high school and college.”

Hughes says she’d also like to host an ACM-W conference with other Florida chapters.

“I want to bring together as many women as possible,” she said. “I want members to feel comfortable in their field and to aspire to be great at what they’re doing.”

To find out more about FAU’s chapter of ACM-W, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/acmwfau

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