Stellar student receives inaugural Women in Computing Science (WiCS) Alumni Award
For computing science student Bria Kindersley, receiving the inaugural Women in Computing Science (WiCS) Alumni Award not only recognizes her outstanding achievements, it also sends an important message to other young women in the technology industry.
“I think it’s a wonderful way to tell women in computing science how much they are appreciated,” says Kindersley, former president of SFU’s WiCS student society.
“For me, receiving it was a lovely acknowledgement of all the work I’ve put in, both supporting women in computing science and in my academics.”
The scholarship, established by SFU alumnae Kate Tsoukalas and Brittany Zenger, will be awarded every year to an outstanding female student who is also an active WiCS student society member.
“It is a huge honour to give back to the SFU computing science and WiCS communities, and to see the first student receive this award,” says Tsoukalas.
“I have personally seen the work that Bria has put into organizing events and her outreach in the community. This is exactly what we hope to encourage and she is a very deserving recipient.”
Tsoukalas and Zenger, both former WiCS presidents themselves, met while studying computing science at SFU and remained friends after graduation. The pair went on to build successful software engineering careers: Tsoukalas at Amazon in Seattle, Washington, and Zenger at Salesforce in Vancouver.
After brainstorming ways to reinforce the women-in-tech network, which they had found so beneficial at SFU and in their careers, in 2014 Tsoukalas and Zenger established the Women in Computing Science (WiCS) Alumni Endowment fund, supporting the Women in Computing Science Alumni Award.
By 2016, the fund had met its $20,000 target, thanks to the duo’s individual fundraising efforts, their employer’s charitable matching policies and SFU donations.
Kindersley is the first of many students who will receive the award, valued at $700, which will be awarded annually in perpetuity.
The award is part of a broader national effort to foster gender diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Despite a gradual increase of women with STEM degrees, the percentage of women working in these fields has barely changed in 30 years. In 1987, women comprised 20 per cent of the STEM workforce in Canada. In 2015, it was still only 23 per cent.
Kindersley made it her mission to support the School of Computing Science’s female students, serving in a leadership role with WiCS for two years, first as co-president from 2014-2015, then as president from 2015-2016.
During this time, she organized several successful events, including hackathons and networking evenings, offering students the opportunity to meet female role models and potential mentors.
“I got a lot of leadership experience as well as a large number of connections in industry, among the faculty and staff at SFU, and within the student population,” says Kindersley.
“It was a great opportunity to meet other women who are at different points in their journeys; from established professors or developers, to graduate students, to first-years, to high school girls.”
Kindersley earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Alberta in 2013 before joining SFU’s second-degree program in computing science. She completed co-op work terms at e-commerce platform developer PNI Digital Media and energy intelligence software provider EnerNOC, and hopes to continue to work in software development when she convocates this June.
“I have seen WiCS leaders and executives go on to do great things after graduation, and we wish Bria continued success in her studies and career as she moves forward.” says Tsoukalas.
Tsoukalas and Zenger hope the award will continue to motivate and inspire young women to expand their networks and forge their own tech career paths.
“To solve important problems we need multiple perspectives,” says Zenger. “Diversity is a key issue and the female perspective in software matters.”
If you would like to make a difference in the lives of more students like Bria, please consider making a donation to the Computing Science Alumni Scholarship Endowment Fund, supporting the Women in Computing Science Alumni Award
Click the Give Now button below and under Search for your Preferred Fund enter Women in Computing Science Alumni Scholarship Endowment Fund.
For more information about becoming an SFU donor or establishing an endowment fund, please contact Christopher Duffin, Faculty of Applied Sciences Associate Director of Advancement, at 778.242.1844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.