Diversity: A Brief History

Like other STEM fields of study, computer science has historically been male-dominated. To redress this male-female disparity, in 2000, the department formed the Focus on Women in Computer Science (FoWCS) Committee, a working group tasked with increasing the participation of women in computer science at UBC. FoWCS did substantial work over nearly two decades in the department, recruiting and supporting undergraduate and graduate women at UBC through social events, mentoring, workshops, panels, and conferences, and strengthening the department’s relationship with women in industry. Together with the department’s Outreach Committee, which worked locally in primary and secondary schools to introduce girls to the study of computer science, FoWCS made great strides in helping make the department’s composition resemble that of society, and not just a segment of it.

Today, although women continue to be underrepresented in the department, and increasing the number of women and supporting them continues as an ongoing concern, the department looks to leverage the groundbreaking work of FoWCS to increase support for all underrepresented or marginalized groups. To that end, in September 2016 the department formed the Committee on Outreach, Diversity and Equity (CODE). Tasked with examining the department’s current efforts to attract and maintain students of all genders and gender identities, and working with UBC Equity and Inclusion Office, the committee initially conducted a focus group of LGBTQ2+ students to determine which barriers to inclusion occur and initiate efforts to address those barriers. Because the first focus group was small, the committee will likely host others in the future to expand on the initial findings and recommendations. As this work continues, the committee will likely also examine issues of inclusiveness and diversity along a number of BC Human Rights Code parameters such as race, socioeconomic status, disability, political belief, religion, and status as a First Nation, Metis, Inuit or Indigenous person.

The ultimate goal of the Committee on Outreach, Diversity and Equity is to help the department insure that all students, staff, and faculty have the support they need to excel.

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