Article by Charlotte Ovenden, Engineer at Aegiq 

If we want to break the gender bias in quantum computing, we first need to understand it. Starting at A-Level, there are little steps where institutions lose people along the way, and we end up with very few women who are working in quantum related industries.

During my PhD, there was a great mentoring scheme and supervisors created a supportive culture. At Aegiq, we also make family life and inclusivity a priority and there’s a lot of flexibility, which are all things that help women enter and remain in the quantum space.

Breaking the gender bias in quantum computing

Not only should we encourage those starting out, but we should also support women who want to make a career change into quantum tech too. It’s a rapidly growing space with expanding opportunities and we should show women that they can apply the transferable skills they’ve gained elsewhere to the industry.

​​With that, we need to ensure that girls and young women are being positively encouraged to engage with technology and quantum-related topics from an early age. Designing female-orientated quantum scholarships could be an attractive way to show what the quantum sector has to offer and help break the gender divide linked to technology subjects.

Moreover, statistics also show that women are more likely than men to leave the technology sector once employed there. In light of this, technology employers need to make sure they’ve created an environment where women can thrive and feel encouraged to do their best work. Having a diverse workforce is beneficial, so employers need to tell and show women that quantum tech is a great place to work and has immense technological capacity.

Technological capabilities of quantum

Quantum computing introduces a paradigm shift over classical computing, which operates on a binary model of 1s and 0s. Quantum computers utilise quantum bits called ‘qubits’, which can be in a superposition of both 1 and 0 at the same time.

This offers us significantly faster computational speeds and access to quantum optimisation, which is known as quantum supremacy. Examples of the positive benefits that could arise from this are:

  1. Being able to perform much more complicated molecular chemistry or protein simulations at much faster speeds, which would allow greener catalysts or new medicines to be developed.
  2. ‘Power-up’ AI and improve data analytics by running machine learning algorithms on a quantum computer.
  3. Optimising systems e.g. logistics and aviation. Quantum computing is intrinsically good at optimising complicated networks, such as delivery routes. More demand is being placed on our ‘just-in-time’ logistics routes, which are complex and require quick delivery times. Quantum computers would therefore make systems more cost-effective and efficient.

Delivering next-generation fibre and boosting satellite communications

Another important area of quantum technology that women can consider is data security. Encryption that would be secure to attack from a classical computer, would take a quantum computer mere seconds to break, which leaves sensitive data vulnerable. However, there is a solution to this problem, which actually arises from the laws of physics.

This is quantum key distribution (QKD), which allows parties to exchange encryption keys securely. It involves transmitting photons via fibre or satellite networks; the photons encoded quantum states are analogous to the 1s and 0s from the classical system.

If an eavesdropper tries to intercept the stream of photons, they observe and perturb the system. These changes can be detected by the legitimate parties and accounted for. Therefore, QKD provides a truly secure communication method. However, it is important that QKD is implemented now, due to the threat from ‘harvest now, decrypt later’ systems.

Quantum computing presents unprecedented possibilities to help solve society’s most complex challenges. Companies like Aegiq are committed to turning these possibilities into reality for women like me, who have a deep interest in the advancement of quantum technology.