Step 73: Reflect on the Grace Hopper Celebration

It’s been two weeks since GHC, and I want to reflect on the experience a little. I have been other smaller conferences – namely, the Wonder Women Tech conference/expo in July – and to be honest, that event left a bad taste in my mouth. There were too many “motivational” stories and not enough dissection of the challenges of recruiting women and minorities. There was a panel of director-level women which I enjoyed, and I got to ask Nicole Stott a question about sharing our passions with others, but those were the best moments.

Still, GHC is the largest and best-known event for a reason, and although it didn’t blow my mind, I also didn’t think it was a waste of time. I share the other faculty’s view that the event is heavily focused on industry, and I would even characterize GHC as a giant career fair with talks on the side. Most of the suggested policies in the talks are also aimed at companies, not schools – a flex work policy to retain women, for example, is a moot point for students who can already work whenever they want. Similarly, seeking out technical opportunities is much easier for students, who get to choose their classes every semester, than for early-career professionals.

Nonetheless, I think it is worthwhile for me to go, if only to have a better idea of what I will bring students to. I did learn a few things from the Redefining Mentorship panel, have some met people who I might keep in contact with. But let me conclude with one experience I didn’t blog, which occurred minutes after arriving at the convention center. I tweeted,

“Most salient feeling after five minutes at #GHC16: not belonging at a women’s celebration. …Except that’s the default for women in tech.”

I should tape that on my wall, because it’s so easy to forget that the lack of belongingness may have any single cause, but as an emergent property of the accepted culture. I’m not sure I know how to fight it, but at least I have a small taste of what it might feel like.

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Step 73: Reflect on the Grace Hopper Celebration

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