2013-10-15: Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) 2013

On October 2-5, I was thrilled to attend Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), the world's largest gathering for women in computing, and meet so many amazing and inspiring women in computing. This year, GHC was held in Minneapolis, MN. It is presented by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, which was founded by Dr. Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney in 1994 to bring together research and career interests of women in computing and encourage the participation of women in computing. GHC was held for the first time in 1994 in Washington DC. The theme of the conference this year was "Think Big - Drive Forward".

There were many sessions and workshops that targeted academics and business. The Computing Research Association Committee on Women in Computing (CRA-W),  offered sessions targeted towards academics. I had a chance to attend Graduate Cohort Workshop last April, which was held in Boston, MA, and created a blog post about it.

The first day started with welcoming new comers by the program Co-Chairs, Wei Lin from Symantec Corporation and Tiffani Williams from Texas A&M University. They expressed their happiness to be among 4,600 brilliant women in computing. They also highlighted that there were many experts and collaborators who were eager to help and answer our questions.

Barb Gee, the vice president of programs for Anita Borg institute, spoke about ABI global expansion and it was a successful experiment in India. Gee said, "we believe that if women are equally represented at the innovation table, the products will meet better satisfaction and solutions for many problems will be optimized".

Then, the plenary session was composed of three amazing world thought leaders who had an enlightening conversation about "How we can think big, and drive forward": Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and the founder of LeanIn.org, with Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, and Telle Whitney, the President and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute. The conversation started with a question from Klawe to Sandberg about the reason of writing her book "Lean In". Sandberg started her answer with "because it turns our the world is still run by men, and I'm not sure it's going very well!".

Sandberg left all of  us with a great inspiration because of her question: "What would you do if you are not afraid?"
Here are some quotes from their conversation:
  • "People who imagine and build technology are problem solvers. They look at what the world  needs and they create it.
  • "We are here because we believe that each one of you has a potential to create a different future." 
  • "Women who make up 51% of the population and are part of 80% of the purchasing decisions, only make up 23% of the computer science work force."
  • "Next time you see a little girl and someone is calling her bossy, take a deep breath and big smile on your face, and say, ‘that little girl is not bossy she has executive leadership skills."
  • "What would you do, if you were not afraid? When you leave GHC, whatever you want to do, go and do it!"
  • "Women inspire other women"
At the end, Withney announced a partnership between LeanIn.org Foundation and Anita Borg Institute to create circles for women in computing.

For reading more about the conversation, here are a blog post and an article:
This is the video of the conversation:

After the opening keynote, we attended the scholarship lunch which was sponsored by Walmart Labs, in which we had small talks from Walmart people during the lunch. After lunch, I attended the Arab Women in Computing meeting. This is the first time to have a real existence for Arab Women in Computing organization in GHC, based on Sana Odeh,  the founder and the chair of the organization, from New York University. Then I attended couple of Leadership workshops in which we had circles and exchanged the questions with expert senior women in computing who answered questions about how to move our career forward.

In the evening, I presented my poster entitled "Access Patterns for Robots and Humans in Web Archives" during the poster session. The poster contains an analysis of the user access patterns of web archives using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine access logs. The detailed paper of this research appeared at JCDL 2013 proceedings.

In the meantime, many famous companies, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, etc., were there in the career fair. Each company has many representatives to discuss the different opportunities they have for women. A few men also attended the conference.  For a perspective of the conference from a man's point of view, Owyn Richen created blog post titled "Grace Hopper 2013 – A Guy’s Perspective". This is also another post on Questionable Intelligence blog.

Thomson Reuters attracted many women's attention with a great promotion through bringing up a caricature artists. I was seeing large queues of many women the whole time of the days of the career fair waiting for a delight draw. They also had many representatives for promoting the company and also for interviewing. I enjoyed being among all of these women in the career fair which inspired me enough to think about how to direct my future in a way to contribute to computing and also encourage many other women to computing.  My advice to anyone who will go to GHC next years, print many copies of your resumes to be prepared for the career fair.

On day 2,  Telle Whitney gave an inspiring short talk before the second keynote begins. She presented some statistics about the conference to realize how fortunate we were to be among 4,817 attendees of the conference. Based on Whitney's, 54 countries, 305 companies, and 402 universities are represented. She also presented the top 10 universities that brought the most students, and also the top 10 companies who brought participants to GHC 2013. University of Minnesota is in the lead of the universities and Microsoft is in the lead of the companies. Here are some quotes from here talk:
  •  "Think Big, because you can!"
  •  "You cannot fight every battle or certainly cannot win every war, but you can stay true to who you are, by never giving up on yourself. Drive Forward."
Whitney talked about ACM support and partnership between ACM and ABI, then introduced John White, from ACM, for the opening Remarks. Vincent Cerf, the president of ACM, was supposed to attend, but he couldn't. Cerf created a video for the attendees to speak about how it is important to be in GHC. He expressed his sadness from some colleagues for badly treating women in computing. He wished to attend GHC 2014 personally to help encouraging more women to be in the computing field.

Megan Smith, the Vice President of Google[x], gave a keynote titled, "Passion, Adventure and Heroic Engineering". Before Smith showing up, a short inspiring video about moonshot thinking was presented. The most inspiring quote of the video was "When you find your passion, you are unstoppable.". Smith had image oriented presentation that flow her talks. She shared details about the 4 Google[x] projects:
The highlight quote from her talk was "Find your passion and combine it with work, you will be unstoppable.".

Here are a blog post and an article about Smith's talk:

At the end, we were surprised by Nora Danzel, who gave an amazing talk last year in GHC's keynote opening. Dr. Michele Weigle created a blog post about it. Danzel talked shortly about Anita Borg story and how that amazing women started the organization to encourage women in computing to get together and increase the women in computing. She asked for donation for keeping Anita Borg Institute up to help many women every year.

I attended a couple of workshops after the break, but the most highlighted one is an invitation only event from Microsoft Workshop. I had a great chance to meet many senior women from Microsoft from many different projects and exchange the knowledge on how can be a successful leaderships in our careers.

At the end of the day, the ABI award ceremony was held. Shikoh Gitau, the ABIE Change Agent Awards Winner, gave a very emotional talk. After this it was the dancing party and the entertainment. In the same time, there was a documentary video about Anita Borg's life and her influence on the creation of the Anita Borg Institute, and the Systers group. It showed also how she started these initiatives for bringing women in computing together. Here is the documentary video about Anita Borg:

I spent most of the third day in the career fair. Grace Hopper not only gave me inspiration, happily it allowed me to meet many old friends and new amazing friends. It also allowed me to discuss my research ideas with many senior women and got positive feedback about it. I'm pleased to have this great opportunity which allowed me to network and communicate with many great women in computing.

For more information about GHC, here are some articles and blog posts: