I was incredibly lucky to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) this past October. I learned a lot about different types of tech, interacted with an incredibly diverse group of women in tech, and changed my understanding of the impact that technology can have on the world around us. GHC had a variety of talks and panels that ranged from self-driving cars to cybersecurity to artificial intelligence. I met a variety of women at these panels and throughout the conference. Through talking to these women and listening to speakers & panelists, I learned about the way that others have used technology to shape and affect the world around them - and how I, too, can use tech to impact my community.
While at GHC, I primarily attended events on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. I was able to gain a better understanding of the different approaches to security from both the technological and human sides. I also learned about how current political systems are lagging behind technology and how we must adapt to handle this delay. Attending talks on artificial intelligence taught me about the different systems that are being developed and the ramifications of developing them. These tech talks & panels also demonstrated the importance of diverse skill, mindsets, and people to handle complex tasks; such as the panel & discussion on Google’s self-driving car, in which several women engineers analyzed their roles and how their team fits together to function.
Throughout the conference, I met a wide variety of women in tech. Prior to arriving, I had been warned that it would be overwhelming to walk into a room and see thousands of technical women. Despite this forewarning, I was shocked to see 15 000 women at the keynote. It was a complete (positive) shock to fit in with everyone else at a tech event. I had in-depth conversations with a variety of women, ranging from a PhD student on her work with complex 3D imaging for physics models, to a women engineer about her experiences with international internships, to a pair of US students on their struggles with imposter syndrome. Of particular importance to me, I attended a LGBTQA lunch where I met a variety of queer people in tech. This was the first time I had talked to older queer women in tech - the population of openly queer people in tech skews young. Listening to Megan Smith, a prominent queer woman in tech, speak on her experiences helped me affirm that it is possible for us to be successful in the tech field and in the tech industry. It is very rare to have access to such a diverse group of individuals in the tech industry and it was inspiring to see diverse successful people who do not fit the stereotypes of those working in tech.
Finally, GHC showed me how others have used technology to shape & improve the world around them and that I, too, can have an affect on my community. Within the opening keynote, Professor Latanya Sweeney discussed how she and her students embarked on a series of projects to use data analysis and technology to fight against racism, sexism, and other systemic problems. They worked to resolve societal and political issues and made real changes that affected their communities. Through Professor Sweeney’s speech, various events and panels, and my individual interactions with other women in tech, GHC has taught me a lot about technology and my possible roles within it.
-Talia McCormick, 2B CS Student