Science has no gender, but gender bias is an undeniable issue and can have an effect on the development of a scientific career. We find ourselves making assumptions about gender, based on the scientific domain, or the level of seniority. Do you assume the gender of this scientist based on their profession, or maybe based on their experiences? We present: A scientist in the field of computer science.
Seniority: Principal Investigator / R&T Associate
What do you investigate?
“In my research, I am investigating how humans interact with computers, focussing on group settings and computation “beyond the desktop”, such as tabletop computing. Digitalisation and constant advancements in technology can increase efficiency, reduce efforts and improve our experience, but to do so, interfaces need to be well designed, integrating seamlessly with our practices and respond to our needs.
“Therefore, in my research I seek to develop new examples of interactive technologies, define new methods to design them, and, making use of empirical studies, identify new interaction mechanisms that can be applied for emerging technologies.”
Ultimate goal of your science?
“As typically in research, I seek to contribute to my field and develop important foundations. In addition, I plan to further work on the entire TRL scale to facilitate the transfer of research results onto the market.”
Highlighted scientific discoveries
“I am co-creator of Kniwwelino®, the technology-rich, creative environment for learning coding and electronics.”
Thinking about the time from University to now, have you ever been treated differently because of your gender?
“When I meet new people in my role as a computer scientist, I regularly encounter a certain scepticism. People seem unsure and sometimes disbelieving of my competencies, and tend to feel more confident to address their questions to colleagues of the other gender. In such cases, I first need to say a few smart words in order to gain their respect.
“As you can imagine, this it is a bit frustrating. Media and society are creating a certain image of a good scientist. When you are not corresponding to that image, you need to make additional efforts and prove your knowledge. This gender bias is mostly unconscious, therefore hard to change. It needs more efforts to make people aware of such biases, as well as a good visibility of role models – of both genders – in order to change the perception.”
Have you found yourself being the only person of your gender in the room? Were/are you the only man/woman in your class, group or lab? If yes, how did you deal with this situation, or what did you think? Did it discourage you or make you feel even more motivated to continue?
“It happened regularly and still happens sometimes that I am the only person of my gender in the room. In general, I prefer working in mixed and diverse teams as this generates a more open minded, inclusive and creative atmosphere.”
If you have children, have you ever been in a situation where certain expectations from your peers changed after/because you have children, or felt excluded in any way?
“Yes, I have two wonderful boys (7 and 10 years old) and I enjoy spending time with them. Raising children requires time and dedication, which in turn reduces your time available for writing publications, writing project grants, travelling, participating to conferences and committees. Hence, making it harder to compete with other researchers. However, raising children is a real enrichment, where you gain many new skills and experience life from a different angle. It is an achievement and in my opinion, it is not right that this time is usually considered as “lost” for the career.”