An opportunity to shape the future for the better: Tamina Pitt implores girls to study STEM
Do you remember when MySpace was more popular than Facebook? Tamina Pitt does. The computer engineering student found her calling in tech as a kid while writing html code to customise her MySpace page.
‘I wanted to see if I could have a cooler page than my friends,’ she said.
‘We’d compare our pages and learn new tricks as we developed our skills.’
Ms Pitt received the 2018 NAIDOC Youth of the Year award and is passionate about getting more women and girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
‘What’s in it for women is an opportunity to shape the world. If you can be part of a design team then you can add your perspective at the beginning of the process and affect the outcome of the product,’’ she said.
Ms Pitt pointed to the example of machine learning algorithms which were found to have gender bias, with at least one found to equate images of women with both washing and the kitchen.
A number of US researchers discovered in recent years that computers that had been taught by photo image collections learned gender stereotypes and amplified them.
‘Women’s perspectives need to be considered in new technology development,’ Ms Pitt said. ‘Having a women in the design team makes an important difference for all women. And getting into the tech field means you can work on things you are passionate about.’
Ms Pitt has interned at Google as a software engineer and is expected to graduate later this year from the University of NSW with a Bachelor of Computer Engineering. She is writing an Honours thesis about how Indigenous perspectives can affect the design of technology.
‘Working on the thesis has not been easy but I’ve enjoyed researching it because it is something I’m personally passionate about,’’ Ms Pitt said.
‘I’m especially interested in how social media can sometimes feel like an unsafe space for Indigenous people. It’s such a popular platform for people to be on today but because of the immediacy of the comments it can feel unsafe when you are encountering racist comments on the web.
‘The question on my mind is: what’s the role of technology in this? I’m interested in looking that in the future. Again, I think it underlines why it’s really important to have that range of perspectives in any design team. Indigenous voices and the voices of women are needed in tech.’
NAIDOC Week 2019 will run nationally from 7-14 July 2019 which is an occasion for all Australians to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The award nomination period is open until 5pm (AEDT) Friday 29 March 2019 #NominateAWoman