Recently, a study conducted by SmartAsset evaluated cities across that nation to determine which locations were best for women in the technology field — and Albuquerque was rated as No. 5 in the nation.
The study also stated that Albuquerque has the fifth lowest gender pay gap in the technology industry.
The University of New Mexico’s Computer Science Department and Computer and Electrical Engineering Department are continuously working to support and encourage female students pursuing a career in tech, said Soraya Abad-Mota, a professor of computer science and computer and electrical engineering.
Abad-Mota is originally from Venezuela but has been teaching at UNM for the past five years. She is currently teaching classes in computer programming and computer organization and said she finds teaching at UNM fulfilling.
“I find teaching at UNM rewarding, because you can feel (students’ frustration) trying to learn as they try to understand programming in the beginning — but as they learn and begin to be able to program, it is rewarding to see them succeed,” Abad-Mota said.
She describes her experience in technology as engaging and challenging. She said that while she feels supported at UNM, the ratio of male to female students in her classes is still not equal. These ratios are somewhere between 60-to-40 and 70-to-30, male to female, Abad-Mota said.
Kristiana Rendon is a computer science student working on her master's degree. She said she has been extremely lucky to have never experienced gender discrimination during her education and as she pursued a career in technology. However, she has noticed that there are more men in technology than women. In most of her classes, she is one of few, if not the only, women.
“UNM has been supportive and always tries to provide a lot of opportunities for women in technology, such as scholarships, internships and other projects,” Rendon said.
Melanie Moses is a professor of computer science at UNM. She said she has been interested in science and technology since she was a young girl.
Moses’ work focuses on the interdisciplinary applications of computer science. Currently, she and her students are working to create and perfect biology-inspired robots, she said.
According to both Moses and Abad-Mota, one of the most important ways to support female students pursuing a degree in computer science or computer and electrical engineering is by being their teacher. Moses said that it is beneficial for students to have a female role model.
“There are a number of ways to support women in your classes. One great thing is that we have eight women faculty in our department. Most universities don't have this. We do a lot of projects to support women and other underrepresented groups as well,” Moses said.
Moses is also part of a UNM program called Advance.
Advance is a program funded by the National Science Foundation and aims to retain women in STEM. The program helps support women working toward tenure and helps reduce bias in the hiring process, Moses said.
Vanessa Surjadidjaja is working on her master's degree in computer science, focusing on how computer science can be used to study biology. She said her current project analyzes how T-cells deal with the flu and other infectious diseases using biological simulations.
Surjadidjaja said that when she first started studying technology, there was not a lot of support for women. Now, there are more women and there is more support, she said.
UNM’s Computer Science Department has a number of female professors that are excellent role models working to encourage and support their students, Surjadidjaja said.
“Albuquerque and UNM have a lot of opportunities. We have a vibrant startup culture. People realize that women and technology are the future,” Moses said.
Megan Holmen is a freelance reporter for news and culture at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.