Winning Google’s 2014 Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is inspiring Judith Gammie to continue encouraging more women into technology careers.
A Master of Computer Science student at RMIT University, Judith feels that the scholarship comes with an obligation to carry on the work of American computer scientist Anita Borg, in whose memory the scholarship is named.
“Receiving this award is a real honour as the scholarship is named after Dr Anita Borg, who devoted her life to breaking down barriers that prevent women from entering technical fields,” said Judith. “The scholarship has really encouraged me to continue to do whatever I can to help set an example and support other women thrive in technical degrees.”
To redress the gender imbalance in technological areas Dr Borg founded the Institute for Women and Technology in 1997, with a vision of ensuring that women made up 50% of all computing graduates by 2020. Although Dr Borg died with her work far from finished, through this scholarship Google aims to encourage women studying computing and technology to become active role models and leaders in these fields.
“I think this award is really important because it acknowledges the importance of making sure women are strongly represented in technical degrees and careers,” said Judith. “I also admire the fact that Google is putting its money where its mouth is to help tackle the under-representation of women in the industry.”
While acknowledging that addressing this inequality is a worthy cause on its own, Judith feels there are also practical reasons for encouraging more women to take up technology careers.
“I’m passionate about getting more women in tech as I think it’s important for the makeup of teams who are creating products to reflect the makeup of their user base,” she said. “For example, the first batch of artificial heart valves couldn’t be used for women and children because they had been designed for men and were too big.”
Earlier this year, Judith and a group of other female students established RMIT SWITCH (Society for Women in Information TeCHnology), to build a supportive community of female tech students by running a combination of social, technical and career focussed events.
“I am the President and one of the co-founders of SWITCH and so far we’ve got 70 members, which is a great start,” she said. “We want to do whatever we can to help women thrive in technical degrees and careers, as well as working to increase the visibility of female role models in the tech industry.
“The opportunities for interesting and rewarding careers in tech are endless and it is a shame that many women miss out on those opportunities because they don’t see tech as a viable option for them.”
Along with her outstanding academic record, it was this enthusiastic advocacy for women in technology that swayed the scholarship judges, according to Stephanie Borgman, a Google talent scout and internship program manager.
“Judith was selected based on her demonstrated leadership in the field and passion for computing and technology,” she said. “I’m happy to congratulate her as one of the 2014 APAC Google Anita Borg Scholars, and we continue to invest in scholars such as Judith because it’s important to support the next generation of female computer scientists.”
Ms Borgman emphasises that the influence of these scholarships will hopefully extend much further for just the individual award winners.
“Judith is a role model for other women and will continue to dismantle the barriers that keep women from entering computer science fields,” she said. “Even more than the scholarship award, we want to create a supportive peer network, not just in Australia, but throughout the world.
“We believe having a diversity of perspectives leads to better decision-making, more relevant products, and makes work a whole lot more interesting.”
As a recipient of one of only six scholarships awarded in Australia, Judith joined another 26 Anita Borg Memorial Scholars from all over Asia Pacific for the APAC Anita Borg Scholars Retreat in Tokyo in September, which included workshops, speakers, panellists, breakout sessions and social activities over several days.
“I am so thrilled to be one of the recipients of this scholarship, and it definitely helps to validate all those late nights spent finishing assignments, emailing SWITCH sponsors and organising launch parties!” she said.
Dr Lawrence Cavedon, from RMIT’s School of Computer Science and IT, sees the scholarship as just reward for a lot of hard work and high achievement.
“This is a fabulous achievement by Judith and the School is extremely proud for one of our students to have achieved this award,” he said. “Judith is a very worthy recipient and makes a great ambassador: as well as achieving outstanding academic results (she was at the very top of my course), she is also co-founder and current President of RMIT’s Society for Women in IT, a group that supports and encourages women studying and interested in IT.”
Judith is currently finishing her Masters, but while she has plenty of ideas for what she wants to do afterwards, providing leadership to women in technology will remain a priority.
“I’d like to spend some time working in technology consulting once I finish my degree, as I’m really attracted to the idea of working with a wide variety of clients from different industries and with different types of businesses, either here in Australia or over in the US, and eventually I plan to start my own business,” she said. “But whatever success I am able to achieve, I’d like to use that to help other women by supporting or investing in female-led tech businesses.”
Dr Anita Borg would be delighted.
- The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship
- Judith Gammie home page
- The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship (Asia Pacific)
- Judith Gammie RMIT student profile
- Judith Gammie interviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald (Sept 2014)
- Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology
- About Anita Borg
- Postgraduate study in computer science and information technology at RMIT