#OurTimeToLead – Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Be Bold - Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Last month I flew to Houston, TX to attend my first Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I was accepted as a Grace Hopper Scholar, finding my travel, food, and lodging, and affording me an opportunity I may not have experienced otherwise. So, before we get too far into this recap, I would like to formally thank the scholar review committee and Qualcomm, my corporate sponsor, for their work and generosity.

This year represented the largest conference (12,000+ attendees) with the largest, most competitive scholar applicant pool (2,000+ applicants with a 21% acceptance rate). Then again, if you’re going to hold a conference in Texas, where everything is bigger, you’ve got to follow suit.

The numbers of GHC attendees has steadily increased over the years, then there was Satya Nadella’s blunder last year, but while GHC has grown substantially in the last few years, it is by no means new.

The first GHC brought 500 technical women to Washington DC in 1994. The Wellesley Computer Science department sent, and continues to send, students to GHC every year. I can only imagine that other colleges and organizations are encouraging their women in computing to attend the conference.

Grace Hopper Celebration felt like home. My Wellesley home, that is. Being in a room filled with brilliant, passionate women is a very comfortable space for me and I wish it wasn’t such an anomaly. I intentionally carried my Wellesley tote bag to attract the attention of other people connected to Wellesley.

Wellesley at GHC
Wellesley at GHC

(Eventually, I found my tribe.)

Yet, I was surprised at how many women I met at the conference that had only heard about GHC months prior to attending. I was happy to see them at the conference, but couldn’t help but wonder how many women should’ve been there that weren’t. Who didn’t know about Grace Hopper and was potentially missing a professional-life changing opportunity?

Lately, I’ve been feeling that I owe it to other Black girls and young women to show them what a coder looks like; that a coder looks like them.

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe that having resources and support groups is enough, but we can’t forget that impact is directly correlated to access. Women can’t benefit from GHC if they don’t know about it.

More than anything, the conference was validating and proved that the work I’m passionate about is worth it and of value. I’m passionate about creating avenues for women and underrepresented minorities in the tech space; a charge that Grace Hopper is obviously in support of.

Lately, I’ve been feeling that I owe it to other Black girls and young women to show them what a coder looks like; that a coder looks like them. Once I left Wellesley with a CS degree, I fell in love with product and decided I wanted to be more on the product / business side. That’s fine and all, but I do love coding. This semester, I’ve been tinkering with circuits, and playing around with code – falling in love all over again. I’ve hesitated to expand my technical skills for fear of pigeonholing myself. If I learn more front-end development techniques, I’ll only be asked to do front end developer jobs. If I tinker with physical prototyping, I’ll only be asked to do physical prototyping jobs.

This may be true, but since when has expanding a skillset been a bad thing? Never. So, let’s do this.