Technology in Society

Cam Women and Tech, the Cambridgeshire branch of The British Science Association, and the Centre for Computing History are teaming up to host a technology and society panel event. It’s on 19th June 7-9pm, at the Centre for Computing History, Rene Court, Cambridge. Sign up here:

We have five speakers with different views on how new advances in technology impact our society:

There’ll be time for a Q&A after the talks, and then a chance to network and chat one-to-one with our speakers.

The event’s sponsored by ECM Selection.

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“Meet the Stemettes” review

On March 29th, we co-hosted “Meet the Stemettes” at Microsoft Research with Cambridge AWISE and Stemettes – a panel with a Q&A, nibbles and networking games, to get girls aged 9-16 excited about science and technology careers. Despite the lure of the spring sunshine outside, we had a full house on the day with girls eager to talk to women who have forged careers as scientists and engineers.

Our panel – 7 women and 1 man – were really inspiring, and fielded questions from our host and the audience about themselves and their work. The girls were very inquisitive, asking everything from “What did you have for breakfast?” to “What’s the difference between science and engineering?“. GCSE and A-level choices came up a lot too, showing that these girls were really putting a lot of thought into how their subject choices now would affect their future career.

Feedback from the audience was really positive. Parents wondered why there weren’t more events like this, the girls were excited to be able to quiz women actually working in science and technology, and our panelists were keen to chat to everyone. One of our panelists was thrilled to be recognised in the street a few days later!

This sort of event is a great way to get informal careers advice to girls, but probably only reaches those who already have an interest, or who have keen parents. An interesting question is how to get the same sort of advice into the hands of girls who wouldn’t normally attend an event like this.

ScienceGrrl recently released a report “Through Both Eyes: The Case for a Gender Lens in STEM“. One of their recommendations was that organisations supporting women in STEM fields shouldn’t work alone, but take advantage of the tremendous potential for synergy. This event was a great example of collaboration between related organisations. Together with Cambridge AWISE, we have the reach to find panelists and to promote the event within the region, while Stemettes have the expertise and experience to run the panel.

It wouldn’t have been possible if Microsoft hadn’t generously provided the venue and refreshments, as part of their work to encourage women into technical careers.

All in all, it was a huge success, and we hope the Stemettes will come back to Cambridge soon to inspire more of our region’s girls!

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Some publicity!

We’ve been busy with some publicity recently! Jess and Catherine were invited to speak to Cambridge 105 about the group; you can listen to the podcast online (we’re on from 11:40).

The Software Sustainability Institute are running a women in tech blog series, and we have a guest post up there talking about the rationale behind a women in tech group here in Cambridge.

Finally, Rachel from Citrix took the time to write about us on her Citrix blog, with some great insight into how groups like ours can really help individual career development in a way that more formal training can’t.

Let us know if you see anything else about us!

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The upside of working in tech

It’s great that there’s a lot of interest at the moment in what life’s like for women working in technology, with loads of suggestions for how things can be improved. But, we think there’s a lot of emphasis on the downside, and not enough about why working in tech is great.

In response, we asked Twitter what women love best about their tech jobs. From travel and gadgets, to creative problem solving, social impact and smart colleagues, here are the replies:


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April event – data visualisation in javascript

We’re running a data visualisation workshop, on April 14th!

We’ll start with a quick introduction to d3.js which is a javascript library designed for graphics and visualization. We’ll take a look at some examples of cool visualizations and then move onto building our own.

For beginners there is a codeacadamy class here:

If you are familiar with programming, but new to d3 you might prefer to start with or

If anyone has some data they would like visualized (either for work or a personal project) please bring it along and we can work together on it. If the data is sensitive/private that’s ok. Just bring a description of the data rather than the actual data and we will still be able to discuss ways to visualize it. For example if I had some payrole data that I can’t share I could describe it by saying that there are 50 rows of data and each one has a name, a salary and a job title. If nobody has any data we can work on some open data, but it will be more interesting to work on a real problem.

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Python workshop 11th March – instructions


7:00-7:10 getting started: organise yourselves around the table, from beginner upwards

7:10-7:30 talk: a brief introduction to data science

7:30-9:00 coding: work at your own level with those around you

What we’ll do

We guess that people will fit into one of three categories: beginner, intermediate or advanced, and have tasks for all levels.


If you’re completely new to coding, the first thing to do is learn a bit about programming. The very basic concepts of coding are the same across lots of languages, but we’re using Python which was designed with an emphasis on readability. A great place to get started is Code Academy, which has tutorials and exercises you can run in your browser, without having to install anything.


If you already have some experience with writing code, and either want some more practice, or to get familiar with Python, we recommend the Google Python class. This covers some of the basics of Python, with a data science bias to the exercises.

There are instructions for installing Python, or you could use an online service like Python Anywhere to write and run code without having to install anything on your own machine.


If you know how to write code and want to work on real problems, then we’ll get started on some data science challenges.

First step is to install Python and some of the libraries that are useful: numpyscipypandas and scikit-learn. A great place to get the set of useful libraries is Anaconda, a free Python distribution for scientific computing.

Kaggle have some ‘getting started’ tasks, including one from Data Science London. This is a binary supervised classification task where you have to identify whether each example in the dataset belongs to class 0 or to class 1. You can use sci-kit learn to get started without knowing too much about what’s going on under the hood; the most important thing to get to grips with is the use of training, development and test datasets, cross-validation and generalisation. These are things we can discuss on the night. There’s some starter code on GitHub which will read in the data from the Data Science London task and train a basic classifier.

Finally, if you want to really get a good understanding, then Coursera’s Machine Learning course started last week and covers a lot of the theory of machine learning. To do the course, you’ll need to know linear algebra (matrices and vectors) and a little calculus, as well as be able to program in Matlab/Octave.

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Meet the Stemettes in March!

We’re pleased to invite you to a free event on Saturday March 29th, 2-5pm, hosted by Microsoft Research Cambridge in their offices just 2 minutes walk from the main train station. This panel event for girls aged 9+ will begin with an introduction from our eight scientists, engineers and mathematicians, before they answer questions from the audience. We’ll finish with some games and nibbles, and a chance to chat to the panelists in person.

Come along and meet real women working in science, technology, engineering and maths at all stages of their careers. Find out how these women combine creativity and problem solving to address our world’s biggest challenges, and build practical solutions by applying maths and science to everyday life. Far from spending their days in hard hats and overalls, scientists and engineers are actively involved in the design and development of new technologies that can impact millions of people around the globe.

This event is for girls aged 9 upwards, through to university students, who are interested in finding out more about science careers. Under-16s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Whether you’re already studying the sciences, unsure about which direction to take, or simply want to find out more, we’d love to see you there! Sign up here to take part:

This event is organised by Cambridge Women in Tech, Cambridge AWISE and Stemettes. 

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