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Events 2009

Slovak Software Engineer Encourages Women to Pursue High-Tech Careers

December 9
Petra Popluharova, Lara Aharkava (in the middle) and Professor Jan Hozik at Faculty of Information Technology

Petra Popluharova (standing), Lara Aharkava and Professor Jan Hozik at Faculty of Information Technology in Brno.

“There is no reason why women should avoid the information technologies industry,” said Google software engineer Petra Popluharova in a series of lectures at two Czech universities and the American Center on November 23-25. The goal of the U.S. Embassy-organized lectures included identifying opportunities for women in the IT industry in response to the low percentage of Czech women in computer-related professions.  Figures show that women represent only 13 percent of those employed in the Czech IT industry.  “In the United States this number is higher, 20 percent, but it’s still not good.  We need to tap the potential of more women for computer engineering,” Popluharova said.

In her talk Popluharova dispelled myths and misconceptions about computing that persist and may discourage women. “Software development isn’t boring.  It’s really creative work with an impact on many users. I think it’s less stressful than, for example, teaching. And it’s not individual work. We socialize a lot at Google.”

Popluharova also explained how and why Google supports diversity. “Google does its best to create a pleasant workplace for the talents with different cultural and social backgrounds who can develop the right tools for different user groups,” she said, “We have support groups for gays, veterans, Afro-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and, of course, women.  I was surprised at how many women work at Google.  Sometimes at meetings there are more women than men.”

Popluharova has worked as a software engineer at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, California, since 2005, when  was hired as the first engineer from “Czecho-Slovakia”.  She is a member of Google’s G-Mail Front-end Team and volunteers to promote the computer science field among women.  She guides high school students through Googleplex (as Google’s corporate headquarters is known) and helps publicize the Anita Borg Scholarship for talented female students.

Petra Popluharova lectured in Ostrava at the Technical University’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, in Brno at the University of Technology’s Faculty of Information Technology and at the American Center in Prague.  In Brno and Prague, software developer Lara Aharkava, who studied at the Prague Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, joined Popluharova to share stories about her recent internship at Google’s office in Zurich, Switzerland.