I have volunteered on the Women in Computer Science Undergraduate Committee since Winter 2015, but attending the Grace Hopper Celebration was the first time I was able to comprehend the scale of impact that our efforts have had both on my peers as well as myself. I had heard from several people before the conference that there would be 15,000 women attending, but the reality of that didn't hit me until I was sitting in an NBA stadium filled with other women who had the same passion for and determination to pursue computer science.
I find that I am always at a loss for words when it comes to describing just how isolating it can be to be a woman in this field. While great strides have been made in recent years, I am still often one of two women to be interviewing for an internship and one of five in my classes. I admit that I have been severely affected by this.
There is a particular panel that I would like to highlight, and I think that the effect this panel had on me is a good example of just what attending GHC can do in terms of alleviating feelings of isolation.
Moderated by a UWaterloo Graduate, the Demystifying Careers and Opportunities in Cryptography, Cybersecurity and Privacy panel had a profound effect on me. The field of security is known for having the worst diversity numbers of all the computer science related fields and for it's unwelcoming culture towards minorities. Despite having a passion for the field since I was a child, I had found myself struggling to stay motivated during the last year. My peers who were also interested in security were men who had been actively participating in the field since high school and I felt that I could not catch up. However, listening to these women speak completely changed my perspective. Each panelist spoke briefly about how they had gotten in to the field, not a single one of them had started off as a security wonder-genius. They had all worked hard and faced similar setbacks as myself. I remember a feeling a weight lift off my chest, I was not alone.
Since then, I have taken every opportunity I can to learn and improve my skills. Thanks to that one panel, I now feel that I can achieve my dreams. Listening to these four women talk about their careers and what they are passionate about reinvigorated my love for computer science. I am now proud to say that in January I will be starting my internship at a local security company as a software developer.
-Anna Lorimer, 3A CS and C&O Student