Summer/Fall 2012

Diversity/Careers Summer/Fall 2012 Issue

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Second MinneWIC celebrates the work & dreams of women in computing

The regional conference included resume workshops and mock interviews offered by corporate folks

About 150 women computer professionals and students passed a February weekend at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus. They spent their time networking, sharing their work and talking about technology and careers.

The occasion was MinneWIC 2012, the second regional Celebration of Women in Computing in the upper Midwest. It's one of eight regional celebrations of the Grace Hopper Regional Consortium (GHRC) planned for 2012.

The GHRC was formed in 2008. Regional events are modeled on the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), the signature event of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI, anitaborg.org). The regional gatherings give participants a chance to enjoy the professional and personal benefits of GHC closer to home and at a lower cost.

And the regional celebrations connect back to GHC. Poster competition winners, faculty leaders and student organizers get complimentary registration for the national conference.

GHRC was initially funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. Microsoft Research also provides funds, and other corporate supporters have been active at the regional level.

MinneWIC 2012 was supported by Adventium Labs (Minneapolis, MN), an R&D lab working in cybersecurity, systems engineering and automated reasoning, and by information security giant Symantec (Mountain View, CA), which has a development and engineering site in Roseville, MN. The women's special interest groups of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Computing Research Association, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), the Coalition to Diversify Computing and ABI provided additional funding and help.

Posters and more
Poster presentations led off the conference, with more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate student projects on display. Topics included high-performance computing, robotics, computer modeling and bioinformatics.

The dinner speaker was Caitlin Kelleher, faculty member and researcher at Washington University (St. Louis. MO). She talked about her work in creating socially oriented game-like environments designed to draw girls and young women into programming as they play. Her latest project, Looking Glass, is currently under development.

On the second day of the conference women CS pros from McAfee, Microsoft, Symantec and Target, plus faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Washington University-St. Louis, discussed career issues for technical women. They shared their reasons for choosing fulltime study or a job after graduation, and their varied approaches to work-life balance. When Jacquelyn Crowhurst, developer tools director at Microsoft, and her husband are at home with their kids, "Laptops stay in the office," she noted. She admitted that smartphones and tablets have made it easier for her and her husband, also a professional techie, to cheat, "but we keep each other honest."

Reaching out
The importance of introducing computing and technical topics in general to girls and young women was a recurring theme. Ruthe Farmer spoke about NCWIT's K-12 outreach; several poster projects looked at ways to interest young women in computing and programming. A panel discussed strategies to reverse the falling number of college students majoring in CS and related disciplines.

Corporate input
A career fair on the last afternoon of the conference brought corporate recruiters together with students and other job-seekers. IBM, PTC, Symantec, Thomson Reuters and other local and national firms set up tables and chatted with prospective employees and interns.

Recruiters and women tech pros from Target Corp, headquartered in Minneapolis, and Thomson Reuters, which has a large site in Eagan, MN, were on hand to work with attendees. The Target team offered resume critiques, and both companies conducted mock interviews.

Dr Maria Gini, CS professor at the University of Minnesota, and Dr Elizabeth Sisely, an adjunct professor at the university and a consultant in smart grid and other energy-focused areas, organized and co-chaired the conference, along with Jennifer Rosato of the College of St Scholastica (Duluth, MN).


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