Celebrating Women in Computing

October 9, 2008

Have you ever been in a room with more than 1500 other 'nerd girls'? Let me tell you, it's the most amazing and unexpected feeling you could imagine. This is exactly what I got to experience the first week of October when I traveled to Keystone, Colorado for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. If you get excited while reading what I have to say about it, then mark your calendars for next year’s edition to be held around that first week of October in Tucson, Arizona. You won’t want to miss it.

 

A few girls and I recently rebuilt a student branch of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) at our school (check us out online at carleton.ca/wise). When we found out about Grace Hopper, we knew we had to go. After all, where else would we find so many other women who had gone through what we have, and who could give us suggestions and ideas for our group? With this in mind, we sought funding from many different sources and eventually made it to Colorado with all expenses paid.

 

We learned so much at this conference. For instance, there were several sessions about how to run outreach programs and activities for younger girls. With such low numbers of women in computer science in particular, it’s important to capture their interest early and keep it.

 

Our WISE group is currently working with outreach programs in our local area, and we might want to start our own someday, too. Now we have some great ideas on how to train our student members who want to take part, and even what kinds of activities we can put on in the future.

 

We also learned the importance of networking. This is the single largest opportunity to meet relevant and inspiring women in computing and technology, and it must not be wasted! We were able to connect with many different people both from industry and academia. Some were able to give us advice on our careers or on WISE, and others might be able to help us obtain resources or funding for our projects. When networking, you must learn how to ask, ask, and ask again. The worst that can happen is have somebody say no.

 

The conference also lived up to the celebration part of its name. We ate, danced, and generally had a darned good time. Girls really seem to know how to socialize and party! It’s really neat to meet inspiring women after their talks, and then see them busting some moves on the dance floor. We all felt like we belonged, and that we were all friends. It was a very supportive atmosphere.

 

If you want to read more about this year's conference, you can check out Gail's blog, as well as check out the official Grace Hopper volunteer blog. But trust me, if you are a technical woman, you want to be at this conference. Start looking for funding early, and don’t forget: "Ask, ask, and ask again!"

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