By Catherine Aczel Boivie
Imagine 15,000 women involved with technology all in one place. That is what happened in Houston a couple of weeks ago at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. The event is named for Grace Hopper, also known as Amazing Grace, who was a computer scientist and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral from 1940s to the 80s. She was one of the first computer scientists who talked about technology in everyday language rather than using “techno-babble”. Most of the attendees were under 30, just graduating or early on in their careers.
At the conference, women (and a few men) had the chance to learn, be mentored as well as have the opportunity to discuss common issues and solutions. This year, 95 per cent of the attendees were women – showing men what it feels like to be a minority in IT.
But what drew so many women to this conference? It is a combination of a number of information-packed sessions as well as a career fair with over 200 companies looking to hire women interested in a career in the technology field.
There were many large companies like Google, Deutsche Bank, PayPal and Uber just to name a few as well as smaller firms like Gusto, Blue Apron and Enova. I accompanied three Simon Fraser University Beedie School of Business students (Iris Xing, Anna Bukreeva and Margaret Kapitany) who are studying in the technology field. This was the first time for them attending this conference.
In addition to the expo of the over 200 companies, up to 8 parallel sessions were offered which, as Anna Bukreeva mentions in her blog, showcased “passionate speakers sharing their expertise and vision for the future of animation, wearables, open source, blockchain and cyber security to name few, and provided insight to attendees of the infinite opportunities in the tech field.” In addition to technical topics, other softer areas were addressed such as “How to Harness the Strength of Introverts” and “Communicating for Influence and Impact”. These topics are important areas for women to learn and understand and are often not available at other technology focussed conferences.
The highlight of the conference was a presentation by Virginia Rometty, CEO and President of IBM. She identified what is important in today’s technology: data is king but data analysis is becoming increasingly more important and may be referred to as the “queen.”