How a Summer University for Women Makes a Difference

by Patricia Lipp - 4 Oct 2016

In Germany, like in most other Western European Countries, the proportion of women studying computer sciences is about 10-20% – very low.

Some of the main reasons are the bad reputation of programmers, still often tagged as “nerds”, the missing female role models in the tech scene, and the lack of a space to learn without pressure in a supportive environment amongst others in similar positions.

Much like Girls Day, the German Summer University for women in Bremen, Informatica Feminale, wants to change this.

Informatica Feminale was launched in 1997 as the first single-sex courses of its kind to be incorporated into a German research university. Since then, its concept has successfully been transferred to national and international sister projects.

I had the great opportunity to present a Scala workshop for absolute beginners this year. I took care of seven students in total, who were incredibly eager when working in pairs through Scala worksheets and letting their Scalatron Bots run through the arena we were based in. They also pushed me to successfully supervise a follow up exercise in Scala for their legitimate studies.

I also attended a workshop about mobile development and various guided tours through the technical attractions of Bremen and the university. On top of this, other attendees were given a wealth of added presentations and talks to check out:

  • Introductions to Artificial Neural Networks
  • Programming of/playing with Raspberry Pis
  • Twittering Arduinos
  • Introduction to Git Workflows
  • Soft-skill related workshops about Presentation, Communication, Negotiation Techniques, and Lean Digital Entrepreneurship

Overall, I was very impressed not only with the quality of the program, but also with its open and supportive atmosphere, which made the biggest difference for most of the attendees.

Mirjam, one of my fellow students in the mobile development workshop, shared with me that for a long time she was very passive in her 'normal' courses, due to the men in her course seemingly knowing all the answers, and as woman she felt inadequate in that space. The courses at the summer university gave her room to try out things on her own with the help of other women in the same boat.

After her positive experience, she plans to apply for a trainee program in the industry to get more hands-on with programming. Other attendees of the programming courses had similar experiences and are now looking ahead more proactively to plan their careers in computer science.

The curiosity, interest, and endurance of Mirjam, my students, and my fellow attendees was the best reward for my mission in Bremen and I would be happy to see graduates or teachers from this initiative taking up positions as trainees, working students, or developers at Zalando Tech.

If you’d like to contact me about Informatica Feminale, please email me at

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