Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grace Hopper Conference 2014
This is a room full of women computer scientists. All women. Or rather, 94% women. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing sold out with ~8,000 attendees in Phoenix, Arizona this year and I was there as part of a well-timed job networking maneuver. It was actually my third Grace Hopper, but my first one as a graduate student and it was interesting how this new perspective changes the approach to conference-attending. Quite simply, as an underrepresented minority in computer science, Grace Hopper (GHC) is magical. Being surrounded by 7,000+ similarly minded females was an amazing experience back then. But my current department is about 50% female, so there is no longer much need for validation. Of course women are computer scientists, I know plenty!

This year's GHC was unique in its number of public relations disasters. The CEO of Microsoft told women not to ask for a raise, but instead to wait for karma to reward them. Satya has been recovering ever since, because apparently he didn't originally realize that you cannot trust in a system that historically devalues women's contributions (i.e., re:unequal pay) to be fair. And then there was the Male Allies Panel in which male executives from Facebook, Google, GoDaddy, and Intuit, decided to spend their time telling women what they could be doing better to change the system (rather than, say, telling the dominant gender what they can do to check their privilege). I'm always wary of anyone who calls themself an "ally" for any cause, as it's often used as (1) recognition for an attitude rather than action, (2) as a way of transferring power back to a member of the majority class rather than the minority, and (3) it's often used as a way to redeem oneself for bigoted statements/behavior (i.e., the classic "I have black friends" or "I have a daughter"). If this GHC Male Allies panel were to have any redeeming qualities, it should have been men talking to other men about how they can change for the better, and inviting questions from the female audience. Instead it was a standard bout of mansplaining. At least there was a Bingo Card for identifying all the tropes.

Other than the PR fumbling, there were some interesting talks on being a young professor, persuasive speaking, developing your own personal 'board of directors', etc. etc. And as always, the industry-sponsored parties at local restaurants were great for networking, eating, and drinking. I got to learn about Twitter's Growth Teams and Data Scientists by interacting with their employees. 'Learned about another educational technology company, and ran into people I worked with 10 years ago! The job fair was humongous, and had a nice, small sample of companies relevant to my PhD work. The job fair also yielded: 4 free t-shirts, 3 external cell phone batteries, outlet-USB converters, Google sunglasses (Google glasses ahahahahaha), compact mirrors, hand sanitizer, chapstick, nail polish, pens, stickers, hairbands, etc.

Overall, I think Grace Hopper was nice, but I'd be interested to see what they do about the male speakers, mansplaining, and their belief in a false meritocracy next year. I also think that 8,000 attendees is way too many. When I was previously at the conference ~9 years ago, it was much more intimate with more students and less recruiters. I find that large conferences make networking a little bit tricky. This year there were also too many industry representatives and not enough academic representatives.

Google Booth at Grace Hopper Conference Facebook Booth at Grace Hopper Job Fair
Grace Hopper Conference 2014
Phoenix Convention Center (Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing)
Grace Hopper Opening Keynote Grace Hopper Twitter Blue Champagne
Grace Hopper Conference 2014
Pinterest Grace Hopper Event
Phoenix Convention Center (Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing)
GHC Friday Dance Party GHC Friday Dance Party

AZ/NM Vacation
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2014, Phoenix, Arizona, 4 days
Sedona, Arizona, 1 day
Tucson, Arizona, 3 days
White Sands, New Mexico, 1 day
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, 1 day
Roswell & Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1 day each


rooth said...

HA - that bingo card is kind of genius. I'd love to hear what they said about your personal Board of Directors; I think it's so important to have people like that in your life and career

Kristin said...

That bingo card is incredible

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