UCL Computer Science


UCL Computer Science celebrates International Women’s Day

15 March 2024

Students, academics, professional services staff, and speakers from industry gathered to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) with a lively panel discussion and a networking event.

Three women holding microphones talking at the UCL Computer Science International Women's Day event

“Be curious”, “Go around any barriers”, and “Own your accomplishments”. These were just some snippets of the advice given to female students for navigating their future careers.

On Friday 8 March, UCL Computer Science hosted an event based on this year’s IWD theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion’. The topic provided a springboard for discussions that encompassed job interview advice, bias against women in AI models, and compassionate leadership.   

The Head of Department, Steve Hailes, welcomed the room and the speakers, Pippa Chick, Jingya Yun and Ivana Drobnjak. 

Pippa is Sales Director, Energy, Retail, Transportation and Life Sciences at Intel  She is also an honorary Professor in Practice at UCL Computer Science.

Jingya is a Regulatory Program Director at HSBC. She graduated from UCL in 2012, having studied for a Master’s in Financial Computing. 

The panel was chaired by Ivana Drobnjak, Professor of Computational Healthcare and a Director of the Undergraduate Programme at UCL Computer Science.

The panellists exchanged positive stories and practical advice. Pippa shared how her colleague was three months pregnant when she was recruited for a role at Intel. Pippa praised the forethought of the hiring manager, who not only gained an excellent employee but used the maternity cover to develop another staff member. 

The speakers talked about being in the minority in a work environment. Jingya mentioned that she hasn’t experienced significant career barriers due to gender. Throughout her career, she has always had supportive female leaders and mentors.

She has seen the financial services industry addressing gender imbalance, such as the gender pay gap, and compared to 2012, the graduate scheme now has much more female representation.

The discussion turned to the many women in the world who experience discrimination. Their countries may not have the outlook, or the legislation, of the UK.

It’s also important to highlight where prejudice can be hidden. Ivana is involved in a project investigating bias against women and girls in large language models, which she has presented to UNESCO and the UN.

Excellent questions came from the floor. One of these touched on affirmative action policies, such as women-only internships: are you viewed differently in a company if you join through one of these internships?

The panel noted that although affirmative action can feel slightly forced, it is a path to equity. The focus should be on your output; be good at your job, and your gender becomes less significant.

The students were encouraged to form a network. Echoing the phrase ‘Together we rise’, it’s a way for them to support each other and celebrate their achievements. 

Savani Sawaikar, in her second year of a Computer Science BSc, said: “Today’s event was inspirational. We heard from women from different backgrounds and with different experiences. I’m glad that the talk wasn’t so much about battling challenges but more about what we’re doing now to make a difference and how we can do better in the future.”

Lara Yanc, a first-year undergraduate student studying MEng Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, added: “ It was inspiring to hear different perspectives from strong, powerful women. It’s great to hear that things are much better, and we should be more confident.”

Pippa Chick said: “I always find it incredibly heartening to interact with the students. These women will shape the workplace of the future.”

Jingya Yun said: “There was a strong sense of camaraderie and solidarity among attendees, leaving us all feeling motivated to continue advocating for women's advancement in the workplace. Kudos to the organizers for orchestrating such an impactful and memorable gathering.”