Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shared at the Grace Hopper conference on women in computing

There are many amazing things about being here at the Grace Hopper conference on women in computing with 1400 conference attendees where major tech companies and universities are scrambling over each other to attract women: eBay, Amazon, Microsoft, Intuit, State Farm Insurance,, Cisco, Intel, HP, Google, Harvard, Princeton, Carnegie-Mellon ... and I know I've missed many others.

But the nice part is being able to share commentary and observations with fellow participants old and young.
  • That even as recently as 15 years ago women in graduate programs and on the job didn't dare paint our nails because that would give people an excuse to not take you seriously ( this is greeted with puzzlement from the younger women at the conference of whom there are very very many--yay!).
  • That the majority of women at the conference are dressed stylishly and for the most part in a feminine way--neither dressed in chinos and square polo shirts (the tech look) or dark pantsuit (mimic a guy in a tie and suit) or jeans and T-shirt (the grad student look). If they are dressed casually the T-shirts and polo shirts are fitted, the jeans are flared, and no one walks around with that tell-tale female grad student crouch. A presenter agrees: she posts a nice little (coed!) primer on how not to dress in the tech world.
  • That none of the presenters--most of whom are women--show that disturbing tendency we used to see some time ago of treating younger women either as potential hazing targets ("I had to put up with !@#$ so you do too,") or potential sting bait ("Ha, caught you favoring women over men, I knew you would not be able to resist showing undue preference for your 'tribe'.")
  • That a young computer programmer from Sudan working full time and working on her masters degree in CS (remotely at a UK university) should find the conference online, make plans to come here, almost cancel her ticket etc. because she realizes she can't *really* afford this--but is told firmly by her mother that she *will* go, and that her mother will pay for the ticket ... and when I express amazement, the young woman doesn't even bat an eyelash.
Sometimes choices are good.

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