Women4Women IT Summer School was a great success

hessian.AI – the Hessian Center for Artificial Intelligence together with the CAISA Lab of Philipps-University Marburg hosted the IT Summer School Women4Women from August 22 to September 3. Lucie Flek, hessian.AI member, launched the initiative to get young women excited about the field of artificial intelligence and to show them future career paths.

The Women4Women IT Summer School was aimed at high school girls who already have an initial interest in STEM subjects. The field of computer science was introduced to the female students in a confidential and relaxed atmosphere at Philipps-University Marburg. The aim was to provide initial insights into career prospects in computer science, both in research and in technology and commercial companies in the Marburg area and throughout Hesse. The primary goal is the practical teaching of basic elements of programming, working together in a team and especially having fun while working on the versatile tasks.

With five participants, the event took place in a personal and confidential atmosphere. The students were able to talk with like-minded people about difficulties regarding their professional future: They were alone in their circles of friends with their interest in computer science, furthermore it was known that sexism/discrimination in the field of IT and gaming was a current problem and women were still “underestimated in these fields, role models were missing, to name just a few of the concerns of the female students”.

Hosting the Summer School serves to try to address these concerns: Early exposure to new technologies is intended to foster young women’s interest and create understanding of the areas of application. The hands-on sessions at the event helped to remove initial inhibitions.

The schoolgirls were accommodated in Marburg for the entire event. They were introduced to programming in a playful manner and by creating concrete applications. Already on the second day, they learned to develop a Pacman game. The highlight was the programming of the humanoid robot “Pepper”. This robot is programmed to analyze people and their facial expressions and gestures and to react accordingly to their emotional states.

Participants developing a Pacman game

In addition to the content of the program, the students got to know Marburg better. Together with their tutors, the participants went pedal boating on the Lahn River, took part in a city tour entitled “Famous Women in Marburg” and visited the Botanical Garden.

The percentage of women in technical professions, including those in the AI environment, has increased in recent years, but the gender ratio is still unbalanced. Only just over 20 percent of people working in AI-related fields are women, according to business magazine Forbes. A recent FAZ article highlights misalignments in scientific institutions that make it difficult for women to pursue careers in the system.

That makes it all the more important to show young women the way to take away their fears – it’s worth it:

It was a nice experience to know that there are more girls who share the same interests after all. It encouraged me to continue on the science path, as I had my reservations about it, too.

Feedback from a participant

To encourage the growth of women in the AI industry, hessian.AI aims to promote female talent in the field, make career direction more accessible to them and raise awareness of the need for gender balance.

The complete tutorials with code and slides are posted on Github.