A Report from the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

October 8th, 2009 by Ran Libeskind-Hadas Post a comment »

The ninth Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing took place in Tucson, Arizona from September 30-October 3.   For those who attended the 1600-person, sold-out conference, it is difficult to believe gender equity in computer science is not right around the corner.  Every year The Grace Hopper Celebration packs an astounding amount of talent and enthusiasm into a single conference.    Keynote speakers Megan Smith, Vice President of New Business Development and General Manager of Google.Org, and Fran Berman, Vice President for Research and Professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, illustrated what it means to lead in this information-centric world.    Invited talks showcased research from top computer scientists.   The undergraduate finalists in the ACM student research student research competition presented fascinating, high-quality original research with poise and confidence well beyond their years.

While the technical program plainly illustrates the quality of the conference, what is more difficult to convey to those who did not attend is the positive energy and excitement that permeates the entire event.  Hundreds of students excitedly swarmed the Amazon.com booth to write code, with the hopes of being dubbed a “Ninja Coder.”  Students showcased t-shirts with the slogan “I code like a girl, and I’m proud of it!”  Throughout the halls, colleagues and friends hugged as they reunited.  And who can overlook the not one but two dance parties put on by the conference and its sponsors.  Hundreds of computer scientists on the dance floor, celebrating the fact that they are in a field where they get to do what they love every day.

As its name implies, the Grace Hopper Celebration is not simply a conference, but a celebration of the work that we do as computer scientists, and particularly as women computer scientists.   It’s a wonderful reminder to all of us—men and women, students and faculty, academics and those from industry—that we work in an exciting field at an exciting time.  It is clear from the conference that the women in the field are critical in driving this exciting field forward, both now and in the future.

This report was contributed by Dr. Christine Alvarado, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College.