Three UBC Okanagan students awarded women in tech scholarships

Computer science and math students hope the award will inspire others

In B.C., women make up 20 per cent of the high-tech workforce, far less than the national average according to the B.C. Tech Association. But those statistics are changing thanks in part to three young women from UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Emily Medema, Angie Pinchbeck and Marlie Russell were each awarded one of ten $10,000 Women in Technology Scholarships this week from the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society. The scholarship recognizes exceptionally high-calibre students seeking degrees in computer science, engineering, and math.

Medema is in her second year of an undergraduate degree in computer science and came to UBC Okanagan from Vernon, BC. While she balances her time between her role as VP of Finance for the Quantitative Sciences Course Union and her school work, she says her love of problem solving and creativity is what truly drives her.

“Computer science provides me with an outlet for both my logical and creative sides,” said Medema. “Sadly, there’s a lack of women in STEM and the tech industry. I believe we’re an untapped asset for any company operating in that space, and indeed for STEM fields as a whole. My hope is that this scholarship can help many more women continue in technology.”

Pinchbeck, a fourth-year undergraduate student, is pursuing a double major in math and computer science and says she found her calling in technology after taking a chance on one of her courses.

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“I never would have guessed I would end up pursuing math and computer science,” said Pinchbeck. “I was in the midst of a journalism degree that wasn’t really working for me when I took a programming class and loved it. Now, with the help of this award, I’ll be continuing my education in machine learning. A field that will undoubtedly reshape the world in which we live.”

She also hopes that the scholarship will spark more opportunities for mentorship.

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“As women, we need to see and support each other in these industries—especially in computer science, which was originally a female dominated field,” said Pinchbeck. “We are among the first ten women to ever achieve this scholarship, and I’m looking forward to meeting and supporting future recipients.”

Russell is from Williams Lake, B.C., and is also working towards an undergraduate degree in computer science at UBC Okanagan. As a former wildfire fighter, she says she hopes her past experience can help shape her future in the tech industry.

“Computer science has encouraged me to expand my mental capacity in ways I never thought possible,” said Russell. “My goal is to return to the Cariboo region and apply my skills in technology to the natural resource sector.”

For Deborah Buszard, UBC Okanagan’s deputy vice-chancellor and principal, these three scholarships demonstrate the ingenuity and potential of the Okanagan campus and its students.

“At UBC Okanagan, we have world-class programs in science, engineering and technology. Encouraging more women to enter these fields will bring untold potential to the tech sector,” said Buszard. “I’m delighted that three students have been selected for this award and I thank the province as well as the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society for recognizing their unique talents and the potential of all women in technology.”

Medema, Pinchbeck and Russell formally received their award on Nov. 13 at an event hosted by Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. For more information about the award, visit: ikbbc.ca/women-in-tech/about-this-scholarship

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