Telling our stories – Sandra Helen Husnes

Each year we meet incredible women at womENcourage™ celebrations. We ask womENcourage participants to tell their stories in blog posts. We continue 2023 with Sandra Helen Husnes, who studied Computer Science at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway and is passionate about diversity in computing.

My name is Sandra, and I study Computer Science at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway. I was introduced to ACM Women through my master’s thesis, and I got to attend the ACM-W Europe womENcourage 2022 conference in Larnaca, Cyprus, with our research group, Software for a Better Society.

My co-author, Marit, and I wanted to research diversity, inclusion, and equity. Still, at the beginning of this semester, we found it challenging to define our research focus and what we could bring to the research. Being able to participate with a poster for the conference, focusing on gender diversity, was our starting point. However, gender diversity seems to be a bit narrow, as it primarily focuses on binary gender and often treats women and men as homogenous groups. So, through this limitation, we found our research topic, intersectionality in computer science.

We already knew that there was a lack of women in computer science from education to professional work, but what about non-binary people, people with dis/abilities, trans people, and people of different ethnicities, nationalities, and socioeconomic backgrounds? This is where we found intersectionality to be more inclusive for everyone in computer science. Not only does intersectionality consider all intersections of a person’s identity, e.g., gender, ethnicity, dis/ability, sexuality, religion etc., but it also acknowledges how these overlapping identities could lead to intersecting forms of discrimination, e.g., being discriminated against based on gender, ethnicity, and dis/ability.

In the early stages of our thesis, attending this conference was great for learning more about diversity in computer science and meeting people who are researchers in the field. Some interesting topics were ethics and equity in artificial intelligence, inequalities and biases in health technology, and everything discussed during the panel discussion about the different perspectives on success in technology. The keynotes, workshops, and panel discussions were informative and inspiring and gave us important insight into the diversity and inclusion issues in the technology field from many different perspectives. These new perspectives also inspired us to make a positive change in the technology field by increasing knowledge about intersectionality to help increase diversity and inclusion. Overall, this was an amazing experience being my first ever academic conference. I learnt so much about diversity in technology and had the opportunity to meet wonderful researchers, industry professionals, and fellow students.

Next year, in 2023, the 10th ACM Celebration of Women in Computing will take place at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) from 20-22 September 2023, with the theme Computing Connecting Everyone. I am very excited that WomENcourage will be hosted at my home university! This will be a great conference to meet new people, network, and learn more about inclusion in computing. Norway is one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to gender equality, and it will be possible to talk to different initiatives and companies that focus on gender equality in computing specifically. I encourage you to attend this conference, where you not only get to visit Trondheim and Norway but also could learn more about inclusion in computing, meet inspiring people, or get new inspiration and insight for your own research. More information about the conference is here.

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