Ece Gelal Soyak, an assistant professor at Bahcesehir University Istanbul, and Shirin Alhroob meet at Bahcesehir University’s Computer Engineering Department where they discuss the role of women in the computer science sector.
Shirin Alhroob: When you were a child, were you already interested or showed enjoyment of computer use?
Ece Soyak: Not very much. I showed more interest in literature and poems.
SA: Why did you decide to pursue a career in IT programming or computer science?
ES: To prove to myself and to society that I could do it. And, my grades were good, and computer science was one of the most popular and promising fields to study.
SA: How often do you feel accepted by your male colleagues in the workplace or in school?
ES: Quite often. I've lived in the U.S. and Turkey and experienced mostly polite, understanding, even empathetic treatment in both countries. Unfortunately, good treatment doesn't make the ‘minority status’ feeling go away because women in IT really are minority.
SA: What are the obstacles that prevent women in Turkey from getting involved in the IT sector?
ES: Not sure. I'm guessing intimidation must be the number one reason. Since there aren't many role models, girls may be inclined to believe they may not be able to succeed in this field.
SA: How does the payment structure for women compare to the payment structure for men?
ES: I am not knowledgeable about the answer.
SA: How does IT programming open a new window of opportunity for women?
ES: Once you can code, you feel you can solve many problems. This self-confidence and more openness to challenging opportunities open new windows. You can find various positions in various industries.
SA: How can IT programming skills improve women's likelihood of employability and allow them to work remotely?
ES: Working remotely is easier as a software developer than it is for most other professions. Most of the time, if your requirements are well defined, you only need a computer and your programming skills to deliver your task.
SA: Is there gender segregation in IT sector as observed in other sectors?
ES: Maybe. But women should not be intimidated, it's an obstacle that can be overcome with good work.
This interview has been edited for clarity.