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Short film “I am a Woman” looks to inspire more working mothers to seek careers in computer science

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Jul 27, 2022

Category: UNB Fredericton

University of New Brunswick (UNB) graduate student Wajiha Shahid hopes her recently released short film I am a Woman will inspire women, especially mothers with young children, to feel empowered to chase their dreams despite stereotypes – much like she did when she chose to pursue a career in computer science. 

“I’m someone who believes in women empowerment, so I made a short film for the Under the Tent festival,” said Shahid, who came to Canada from Pakistan in the summer of 2021. “I had the idea of showing how my UNB friends and I feel more equal in Canada compared to back home.” 

Shahid wrote, directed, produced and starred in the short film. In it, she shares her experience of finding a community of women who have discovered independence and liberation in Fredericton.

Shahid came here with her husband and three-year-old son to complete her doctorate in computer science at UNB. She chose the Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity (CIC) at UNB as she saw this program as a conduit to connect with industry partners and lead to a meaningful professional career. 

“At the CIC, we are assigned various industry projects along with our thesis. It’s a 50/50 split, so we work 20 hours per week on each. As a cybersecurity researcher, I am currently working on a project with Siemens to protect the smart grid systems and devices from real-time cyberattacks and simulating attacks.”

But it’s not just finding the CIC that matters: Shahid wanted a community. She’s found it through living at Magee House near other international students – some of whom are featured in her film – and from faculty, staff and her academic mentors.

“I feel support from my peers and mentors,” Shahid explained. “Sonya Hull in the faculty of computer science is a big believer in women in computer science and we’re bringing more of them into programming work.” 

She added that, for her, computer science is a great job as it allows her to work from home and juggle family responsibilities.

Moving to New Brunswick has come with many challenges, but Shahid is on the path of her choosing for a better future for herself and her family. She hopes her experiences with the CIC will inspire and uplift others. She said the advantages of a smaller city like Fredericton and being close to nature were also essential factors in the decision. 

I am a Woman premiered on July 1 as part of Under the Tent, a multimedia storytelling project that explores the sense of belonging or not belonging under the tent of Canadian multiculturalism. The festival featured films by 18 graduate students who individually explore Canadian multiculturalism from their lived experiences and their hopes for the future. Shahid said she was honoured to be the only person from Atlantic Canada selected for the festival.

To learn more about computer science offerings at UNB, visit the faculty of computer science and experiential learning program offerings. For those looking to learn how to code and upskill their existing computer competencies, consider the coding bootcamp from the UNB College of Extended Learning.

Media contact: Dani Godbout
Photo: Wajiha Shahid