A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Pernille Bjørn, full professor & Head of Department for Research at the Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Pernille Bjørn, professor & Head of Department for Research at the Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Pernille Bjørn is Full professor & Head of Department for Research at the Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark (DIKU).
In 2016, Bjørn initiated a research initiative (Femtech.dk) aimed at changing the gender diversity in computing education and profession by utilising Makerspace Methodologies. She is the co-founder of Atari Women (atariwomen.org), which has been displayed at Emerald City ComicCon2019 and at the Living Computers Museum in Seattle 2019.
When did you become interested in technology?
Before starting my university degree, I worked at a small distribution company, where my boss made his own IT systems supporting storage, orders, and packaging. While working there he trained me to take over the technical development of these systems and I learned to build, structure, and implement databases. This was approximately in 1993.
I worked there for 3 years, and during that time I did not consider my work to be about computer science, but instead about business optimization – since what I was doing was to figure out how we could do things easier and then implement the technical solutions and apply these into the organization.
How did you end up in your career path?
While working in the small distribution company for 3 years, I took academic courses in the evenings – mostly for fun – like courses in philosophy, phycology, and design – but also more managerial courses like business economics and management. I decided that I wanted to apply for university and I was accepted into a humanistic basic program at Roskilde University in Denmark.
The first week at university I saw a pamphlet on a table, which explained that I could enroll in computer science courses at the natural science basic program while in humanities. I recognized some of the topics and areas which I had done in practice and thought it could be fun – moreover, I found 2 other fellow students from my program who wanted to do this, and we ended by taking all the computer science courses in the natural science program, while being in humanities.
I then decided to do an interdisciplinary bachelor’s and later master’s degree in computer science and educational studies. While doing my thesis, my supervisor told me about the PhD program in computer science. At that time I did not know what a PhD degree was – but I got excited and ended up doing my PhD in computer science and wanted to start an academic career.