Google has awarded Department of Computing Information Systems PhD student Sarah Webber with the Anita Borg Scholarship, recognising her passion to engage women in computer science and technology.
Awarded annually to acknowledge female and computer science students, who empower women to use technology, Sarah received the award for designing and delivering technology for marginalised women. Developing a community skills training program in Thailand, Sarah worked closely with Burmese youth to expand education and life opportunities through technology.
“Although few had used a computer before, our tailored program soon empowered students to build websites and create digital media to share their stories with the world.”
“Unfortunately, a couple of our female students were unable to complete the program as they shouldered additional family responsibilities. As they left, we asked ourselves how we could provide them with continued access to learning and opportunities for self-empowerment. Our gifts of donated smartphones and books seemed wholly inadequate.”
Earlier this year, Sarah played a key role in investigating how technology could be used to support the work of Project Respect, a service for trafficked women in the sex industry.
“We put together a proposal for online resources and an online community providing peer support to women in need of assistance. This could drastically increase the capacity of this grassroots organisation to connect women to vital services and enable them to support one another.”
Following the announcement of the Anita Borg Scholarship, recipients are invited to a retreat that provides a number of workshops and panels related to personal, professional and technical development.
“It is an opportunity to learn about the work interests and achievements of other women in computer science. A key message was to continually reflect on our own abilities and interests, as it is all too easy (and too common) for us to hide our light under a bushel and defer to others. We must actively work against this,” says Sarah.
“Although there are already many initiatives such as Robogals and CodeClub, these can be hard for teachers to access. We are planning to develop a web resource and contact system which can connect teachers with initiatives that meet their needs, and help them get started.”
Department of Computing Information and Information Systems PhD student Kayla Heffernan was named a runner up of the Scholarship.
Past recipients of the Scholarship include Kagonya Awori, who received the award for empowering women in rural areas to design technologies for use in their daily lives.