Monday, February 22, 2021

Paying it forward for the next-generation of women in computing

Three women sit on a couch with a laptop in front of them.

By Beth Gallagher. This article was originally published in the Global Impact Report.

Keer Liu.Keer Liu was 18 years old when she left China to study computer science at the University of Waterloo with a dream of becoming a leader in the tech industry. She wanted an exceptional foundation in computing but her real dream has always been to lead.

This year, Liu will have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science, experience building a successful startup with her classmates, and six co-op work terms at some of the world’s best-known technology companies.

Working in companies such as Apple, Uber, Slack and Coinbase transformed her education, but Liu says the connections she made — and the female role models she met — while working in an industry still dominated by men have inspired her to not only lead but to build bridges for other young women in computing.

“I was able to get a co-op term with Apple on the basis of a recommendation from my supervisor at Slack,” Liu says, who starts full-time at Apple after graduating. The recommendation came from a female engineering colleague. Liu says the experience of reporting to three women during co-op terms in San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver shaped her vision of leadership.

“Female software engineers and managers have empathy for younger women just entering the field,” Liu says. “They have the engineering skills but they also know how to mentor young students like me. I want to be able to do that for others.”

The power of a network of women in tech

For Liu, the power of connection and community started early in her studies when she became involved in the Women in Computer Science group in Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics. There she was introduced to other women studying computer science who shared their own stories of experiencing unconscious bias, feeling like imposters in the workplace, and the fear of speaking up in meetings. Liu, who speaks three languages, said she had to push herself to be more assertive, in part because she was a woman, but also because English is her third language.

According to Statistics Canada, only 18 per cent of people working in engineering or computer and information systems jobs are women. In the U.S., software developers, with a median annual wage of $103,000, continue to be in high demand but only 18 per cent of those jobs were filled by women in 2017.

The disparity persists despite research that shows diverse teams perform better. A recent analysis by McKinsey & Company found that organizations in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. In the case of ethnic and cultural diversity, McKinsey’s 2020 report, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36 per cent in profitability.

As of fall 2019, women represented 36.5 per cent of the undergraduate population in the Faculty of Mathematics and 24.4 per cent in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. At the graduate level, these numbers are 32 per cent and 18.9 per cent respectively. These percentages have been increasing over the past decade, thanks in large part to the work of Women in Computer Science (WiCS)Waterloo Women’s Impact Network (WWIN), the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) and Women in Mathematics (WiM).

An aspiring female entrepreneur

Part of Liu’s journey at Waterloo included time on Tutturu, a startup that won $50,000 in the University of Waterloo’s Velocity Pitch competition in 2020. Liu is currently supporting the Tutturu team as a marketing lead but the time she spent learning to pitch an idea and the connections she made with other entrepreneurial students in Velocity has expanded her network. Beyond the Velocity community, Liu met other students interested in starting ventures in an entrepreneurship course offered through Waterloo’s Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business.

Liu is taking everything she’s learned about entrepreneurship into another role as fellow for MiraclePlus, an incubator based in China. She is building connections between people with promising startup ideas in Waterloo and MiraclePlus, the incubator founded by global tech leader Lu Qi, the former chief operating officer at Baidu and a former executive vice president at Microsoft.

As an international student, Liu hopes to continue to build a global community of women and other marginalized groups who are as passionate about tech and transforming the world as she is. “I’ve watched women who lead and they really know their engineering and computing, but they are also very smart about building teams. My dream is to one day be as good as they are.”

Registration open for advisor conference

An academic advisor sits with a student in an office.

A message from the Academic Advising Community of Practice.

Registration is now open for the seventh annual University of Waterloo Advisor Conference.

This year’s conference, organized by the Professional Development Working Group of the Academic Advising Community of Practice, is appropriately themed The Challenge of Change. Advisors will connect virtually April 15 and 16 to share information and receive updates from student services and campus partners that will enhance the vital advising they provide Waterloo students.

Some Conference highlights will include:

Keynote addresses

Breakout sessions

  • Failing to Flourishing: Strategies for Fostering Resilient Learners
  • Cultivating Leadership and Confidence Through the Student Leadership Program
  • Supporting Student Thriving in Co-op

If you advise undergraduate or graduate students here at Waterloo, be sure to register by March 31 in UWaterloo Portal.

History that is hot to the touch

Hossam Bakir, Fiqir Worku, and Richard Norman.

This is an excerpt of an article originally published on Waterloo Stories.

When Hossam Bakir (MHE ’20) was working as a medical director in an upscale overseas hospital several years ago, he saw first-hand the prejudices that some top-level administrators exhibited toward Black doctors, and he took steps to stand up for the right for everyone to feel safe at work.  

Today, he’s at the University of Waterloo, still working toward making the world a more equitable place in terms of race, among other things. 

“This type of work is woven in my structure and DNA,” Bakir says. “I genuinely believe that racism, a social construct, only drags nations to the bottom of history. Converting skin colour and 0.1 per cent genetic differences into social hierarchy prevents nations from utilizing all inborn and gained powers and capabilities for their development and instead of using it in various forms of destruction of civilizations.” 

Bakir leads the Mental Health, Ableism and Accessibility committee of the School’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) group, which makes recommendations to university administrators on mental health for BIPOC students. He is also a member of the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) at Waterloo, and volunteers with the International Coaching Federation, offering pro-bono coaching to marginalized individuals and new immigrants.

“I see very little education to the younger generations about the history, damages and drawbacks of racism and values of equity and diversity,” Bakir says. He’s hoping to start a PhD in Public Health and Health Systems next year and plans to work in the field creating educational material for students and staff “so that younger generations grow up genuinely convinced that racism is a curable disease.” He also wants to work on mitigating the manifestations of racism through equitable policies and robust complaint-management systems. 

How will he know when his job is done? “When we stop hearing, ‘That was not my intention’ as a reply from an offender who showed signs of micro-aggressions,” Bakir says. “And when we replace hatred with acceptance of what is different and start to look at opportunities instead of obstacles.” 

RAISE the bar

Fiqir Worku (BSc ’19) was enrolled in the Health Studies program when she began to create spaces for racialized students on campus. This work led her to found Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity (RAISE), the first student-run service at the University dedicated to addressing racism and xenophobia.  

“Because of my activism work, I was also awarded the Lincoln M. Alexander community award – a prestigious provincial award given to one young person who shows strong leadership and has done significant work in addressing racial discrimination,” Worku says. “In the last year of my undergraduate career, I also conducted an honours thesis examining the impact of racism on the mental health of radicalized students.”  

She is now pursuing an MSc in Health Services Research at the University of Toronto and works as a research assistant at St. Michael’s Hospital. “We explore Black people’s experiences with HIV/AIDS and are working on a province-wide study examining the experiences of COVID-19 on the Black community’s access to health care,” explains Worku.  

She is also an advisory member of the African, Caribbean, Black (ACB) Network of Waterloo Region, working on advocacy initiatives to educate the community about what defunding the police could look like. 

She says COVID-19 has made it more difficult to celebrate and engage with her community in the same way she typically would during Black History Month.  

“This year has made it more evident to institutions that they need to step up when it comes to anti-Black racism and that work can begin by decolonizing our education system and incorporating Black and Indigenous thought into our pedagogy,” Worku says. “But I am hopeful for what’s to come.” 

Read the rest of the article on Waterloo Stories.

Senate meets today and other notes

The University's Senate meets today at 3:30 p.m. on Microsoft Teams. Among the agenda items:

  • A motion to approve the membership of the Policy 76/Policy 77 Drafting Committee;
  • A motion to approve members of the Distinguished Teacher Awards Committee and the Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching by a Student Committee for 2021;
  • A motion to approve proposed changes to the Doctor of Optometry Program;
  • A motion to change the name of the Department of Kinesiology to the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences; and
  • A motion to change the name of the School of Public Health and Health Systems to the School of Public Health Sciences.

Delivering a teaching presentation will be Su-Yin Tan, Teaching Fellow from Environment, and Donna Ellis, the Director of Centre for Teaching Excellence.

"Peter Briant, Parking Services Technician, is retiring after 31 years of dedicated service on March 1st, 2021," says a note from Parking Services. "We wish him and his family well in his retirement. Please forward any well wishes to in lieu of a retirement event as we continue to operate remotely."

WCC Focus Group banner."Want to earn a $5 Tim Horton’s gift card for your opinion?" asks the Writing and Communication Centre. "The WCC is now seeking only graduate students who have, and have never used our services to participate in our online focus group to give us feedback. If interested, please sign up on Qualtrics. The deadline to sign up is February 26 at 11:59 p.m.

Plant Operations has announced a shutdown of domestic hot and cold water in room 1105 of Engineering 3 on Monday, March 1 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to facilitate the removal of a kitchenette.

There's still time to register for the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (CBB)'s Ideation Challenge in partnership with the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute. The Praxis SCI Ideation Challenge is a new program "designed to support transformative commercializable concepts to improve the quality of life of people living with #SpinalCordInjury." You can register for the live launch on February 22 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and contact for support forming your team.

In the same vein, there's still time to register for the upcoming Employee Wellness Session: COVID-19 – Calming Your Mind in Challenging Times offered by the Employee and Family Assistance Plan and Homewood Health. The workshop will take place on Thursday, February 25 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Registration closes today.

The UW Black Faculty Collective and the Canadian Black Scientists Network are co-hosting a new virtual seminar series that will highlight Black STEM in Canada. The first event will be this Thursday, February 25 at 2:30 p.m. Professor Lawrence (Larry) Goodridge from University of Guelph will present on “My bacteria has a virus! The use of bacteriophages to develop new antibacterial drugs”.

Please register for the event on the Black Faculty Collective website.

Campus weather closures

The University of Waterloo is open today, but the Early Childhood Education Centre and Bright Starts Co-operative Early Learning Centre are closed today due to inclement weather.

Link of the day

10 years ago: The Christchurch earthquake

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Updated Course templates are now available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly. Support for Winter 2021 is available.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Independent Remote Course Design Essentials. Self-directed, continuous self-enrollment course in LEARN.

Learning from Our Remote Teaching Experiences (CTE7009), Tuesday, February 23, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

Introduction to Assessments in PebblePad (ATLAS) (CTE7512), Monday, March 8, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

Stay informed about COVID cases on campus by consulting the COVID case tracker.

Whether you’re a student or faculty member, the Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help you with all of your academic writing needs. This term we have added evening and weekend one-to-one appointments with our peer tutors, and our NEW one-to-one workshops, where you can learn the content directly from one of our writing advisors.

  • Undergraduates: Work with us to brainstorm, draft, revise, and polish your assignments in one-to-one appointments. Ask questions and learn writing tips at our Instagram Live Q&A sessions, and beat isolation while improving your writing skills at the weekly PJ-friendly writing groups.
  • Graduates: Meet with our advisors in one-to-one appointments. Join the online writing community at the Virtual Writing Cafés, learn how to present your work at Speak Like a Scholar, or get moving on your dissertation at Dissertation Boot Camp.
  • Faculty and Instructors: Request custom workshops for your courses, join the Waterloo writing community at the Virtual Writing Cafés, or make progress on your article, book, or chapter in one-to-one meetings with our faculty specialist.

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action assists undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, faculty, and alumni through navigating career services that are right for them. You can attend a one-on-one appointment or same day drop-in session at the CCA for assistance with cover letter writing, career planning and much more. You can also book an appointment online or visit our Live Chat to connect with our Client Support Team. The CCA is here to help you.

You may need to speak with someone for emotional support. Good2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline based in Ontario, Canada that is available to all students. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment.

The Library has published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Indigenous Initiatives Office is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the university Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support (Visit to book an appointment):

  • MATES – Available Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (online only)
    • Support sessions available in the following languages: Cantonese, English, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish, and Urdu.
  • Glow Centre – Available Monday to Friday,  4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (online only)
  • RAISE – Available Monday to Friday – Varied hours (online only)
  • Women’s Centre – Available Monday to Friday, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (online only)

Bike Centre – Will be reopening soon. Check for current operating times.

Campus Response Team, ICSN, Off Campus Community and Co-op Connection all available online. Check for more details.

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at More information at

WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home. Free programming including Online Fitness, Health Webinars, Personalized Nutrition and more from Warriors Athletics and Rec. Open to students, staff, faculty and alumni. Register today.

Livestream Exercises for Waterloo staff: Join us for an energy boosting Bootcamp or a fast and effective Express Home Workout! Open to UW Staff and subsidized by the Staff Excellence Fund.

Renison English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join your fellow Warriors, donate blood and help us win the Blood Battle against Laurier for a second year in a row. Set up a profile or add the PFL code: UNIV960995 to your account if you have a account already. Questions? Contact

Warrior Rec Free Programs for Students, January to February. Wide range of free opportunities available to keep students active and healthy including:Fitness Classes (On-Demand), Health and Mindfulness Webinars, Personalized Nutrition Guides, Personal Training Consultations, Small Group Training and Warrior Reset. Register today.

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Quest downtime, Saturday, February 20 to Monday, February 22, 8:30 a.m.

Senate meeting, Monday, February 22, 3:30 p.m.

NEW - Praxis SCI Ideation Challenge, Monday, February 22, 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

WaterLeadership: Write it up: Practical tips for communicating your research, Tuesday, February 23, 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m.

GEDIx: A 30-minute Exchange, Tuesday, February 23, 1:00 p.m.

Concept Working Session: Customer Discovery, Tuesday, February 23, 5:30 p.m., virtual event.

Noon Hour Concert: Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes Op. 13, Wednesday, February 24, 12:30 p.m.

NEW - Concept Intro Session: Pitch to Win, Wednesday February 24, 6:00 p.m., virtual event.

NEW - Employee Wellness Session: COVID-19 – Calming Your Mind in Challenging Times, Thursday, February 25, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.

NEW - WatECS Workshop, Designing Scientific Figures by Felice Frankel, Thursday, February 25, 2:00 p.m.

NEW - Black Scientists Seminar Series, Thursday, February 25, 2:30 p.m.

NEW - Rooted In History: A Celebration of Black History as Canadian History, Friday, February 26, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.