In digital, “we must impose quotas on recruitments”

Maintenance. Member of the Academia Europaea and ACM Fellow, winner of the 2011 Montpetit Prize and the 2017 Innovation Prize from the Academy of Sciences, Anne-Marie Kermarrec was a researcher before becoming a business leader. Computer professor at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, Switzerland, and founder of the start-up Mediego, she defends the presence of women in the sector.

In your book “Numérique, counting with women” (Odile Jacob), you devote a chapter to Ada Lovelace. Did you discover this computer pioneer during your studies?

After passing a scientific baccalaureate in 1988, I enrolled in computer science at the university. My mother was a feminist before her time: the choice of my studies was not biased by questions of gender. However, the stereotypes were there. There were only 15% female students in my training.

We have heard of Turing (1912-1954), von Neumann (1903-1957) or Babbage (1791-1871), but Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was never mentioned, even though she is considered to be the first programmer in history. That says a lot about the credibility we give to female spirits. Remember that the mathematician Sophie Germain (1776-1831) had to disguise herself as a man to access the laboratories!

Even today, the ratio of women who choose computer science at university hovers between 15% and 20%. How to fight against the power of bias?

Even if for the moment, the digital and computer science option is 90% acclaimed by boys, the introduction of computer science in secondary school is an excellent initiative: the subject was all the more victim of stereotypes that we didn’t know her. Mentoring must also be developed. In the digital world where women’s skills are very often questioned, even the most solid confidence ends up being shaken. It is very important to be encouraged to make your way in these sometimes hostile environments.

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American universities regularly examine the problem. In 1995, Carnegie Mellon University increased the proportion of women from 7% to 42% by taking awareness measures to change the image of IT, carrying out aggressive recruitment campaigns and examining the elements that turn women off. to embark on this path. The University of Berkeley, which approaches computer science more through its impact on society than through basic concepts, raised the ratio to nearly 50% of female students in 2014!

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