Researcher Jana Hozzová: It is argued to women that computer science is too demanding for them, and this then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy

20 Aug 2020

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Attracting women to the IT field is an increasingly important topic in our society, and even more, is it IT science! Check out interview with Jana Hozzová, researcher of the CERIT-SC centre, not only about women in science and research.

Can you please summarize your work at ICS so far?

I have been working at ICS since 2013 when I started as a programmer in the department that deals with access systems. Over time, I have been involved in research projects related to my dissertation, and for the last three or four years, I have only been working on scientific projects.

I currently work in the team of Jiří Filipovič, I do research in the field of autotuning, and I work with chemists on simulations of molecular docking and metadynamics and the classification of NMR data.

How did you get into science? Did you always know you wanted to devote to it?

No, during my high school studies, it never occurred to me that science could become my profession. I didn't have anyone to do science in my social bubble, and no one at school mentioned science as a career option. And not research in computer science at all.

At university, I naturally came into contact with scientists, but the decision to pursue a doctorate was made at the end of my engineering studies. I enjoyed the research I tried during my diploma thesis. In the commercial sphere, I did not find a place that would allow research and development of a recent graduate, and thanks to the great support and encouragement of my parents and partner, I thought I would try it. And I don't regret it.

What conditions do you have for research at ICS?

I have the most important thing. Calm environment and long periods when I can dive into the problem without interruption.

Within projects, I can choose to a large extent which direction I want to explore and how to grasp the problem. I can deepen my expertise, even in areas not explicitly focused on the research fields we are dealing with. In recent years, I have begun to delve deeper into the design and evaluation of experiments and the associated statistics. And I enjoy it a lot.

I am also delighted with the great atmosphere in the team, we work well, and we perfectly get along with each other.

At the institute, you are the only woman in the scientific research position. Is there something that makes a scientific career more difficult for women than for men?

Zdenka Dudová is also doing research at ICS, although with a different job title. So I'm not entirely alone, but there aren't many of us.

Officially and formally, women have no obstacles, at least in most countries of the world. We can study, and we study, we can, and we do science. We are not stupider than men, not even in mathematics or engineering fields. Conditions have been set the same in recent years for men and women. Still, the few centuries where only (or mainly) men had access to higher education and science can be felt in the nuances of social and cultural expectations.

Computer science, as a technical science, is perceived in Central Europe as a domain of men. My parents also persuaded me not to study computer science because "it's not suitable for a girl." And I went to high school with a focus on programming, enjoyed mathematics and computer science, and excelled in them. It seemed irrelevant to me then, and I went for my own, but the social pressure was there. Girls are told that mathematics, physics, computer science are too demanding, and it is normal that they do not master these subjects. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's where it all begins.

Do you see any possible causes in anything else?

At universities and doctoral studies, the ratio of men and women is balanced (in total, across disciplines). But then motherhood and childcare take place. Although pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding are biologically a matter for women, childcare remains only because of society's setting. Even now, during the COVID-19 quarantine, it appears worldwide that female scientists have interrupted or significantly reduced their work more often than male scientists, due to children and housekeeping. This then causes their career to progress more slowly, and far fewer women than men can already be seen in higher scientific positions.

It's all complicated, it has no easy or quick solution, and change is slow. An excellent scientific career requires a huge amount of energy, and this applies to women as long as to men. However, women more often "have to" devote part of that energy elsewhere.

What are you currently working on, and what are your next work plans/goals?

I am currently developing various models for predicting profiling data so that we can improve our autotuning tool. My goals are so common, let projects run well, articles to be written, and work in peace. And I would be pleased if enough students signed up for our seminar Laboratory of Advanced Network Technologies in the autumn semester.

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