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Attendance is up again at Grace Hopper 2009

The Anita Borg Institute concluded its ninth annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing with record-breaking attendance

Telle Whitney, ABI president and CEO, left, with change agent award winners Halima Ibrahim, Anne Ikiara and Oreoluwa Somolu. Alan Eustace, SVP of engineering at award sponsor Google, is at right.'Creating technology for social good” was the theme of what was almost certainly the world’s largest gathering of women in computing. At the 2009 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, held in Tucson, AZ September 30 through October 3, attendance was 11 percent higher than last year’s meeting, up to then the largest ever, says Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI, Palo Alto, CA).

Grace Hopper is a four-day technical conference designed to bring together the research and career interests of women in computing and highlight their accomplishments across industry, Telle Whitney presents the Anita Borg technical leadership award to Ruzena Bajcsy of the University of California at Berkeley. Ana Pinczuk of award sponsor Cisco Systems is standing at right.government and academia. The 2009 gathering was attended by 1,574 people.

100 panels, 430 speakers
Lots of good things happened at the gathering, which offered more than a hundred panels, workshops and sessions and some 430 speakers. ABI’s I Am a Technical Woman video, intended for use in schools and elsewhere, debuted to general applause, and thought-provoking keynotes were delivered by Megan Smith, VP of new business development and general manager of Google.org, and Fran Berman, VP for research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, Troy, NY).

Smith spoke about interconnectedness as the central theme of this century. “Only with a globally diverse group of computer scientists working to contribute, prioritize and innovate will we see solutions appropriate for the diverse set of problems we face globally,” she said.

RPI’s Berman discussed innovation as the key to a successful future. “We need to consider the best and the brightest, regardless of gender or background, to create the strong, innovative leadership needed to guide us to current and future success,” was her conclusion.

Linda Brisnehan, VP of military support programs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, was one of a group of technology execs who shared their thoughts on “What you need to know on the road to becoming a technology exec.” One theme that emerged from the discussion: a career should be treated as an obstacle course rather than a clear path. If you expect challenges, you’ll be energized rather than discouraged by them.

Grace Hopper award winners
Nadya Mason, U Illinois assistant physics professor, with her emerging leader award sponsored by Microsoft. IDEA project director Ekaterina Fedotova won the social impact award sponsored by Microsoft.Each year the celebration includes awards to outstanding women in technology. The 2009 Anita Borg social impact award, which was sponsored by Microsoft, went to Ekaterina Fedotova, project director for IDEA, a community-based network providing computer skills training to disadvantaged populations in fifty-one cities in Russia.

The 2009 Anita Borg technical leadership award, sponsored by Cisco, was presented to Ruzena Bajcsy, EE professor at the University of California, Berkeley where she’s also director emerita of the Center for IT Research in the Interest of Society.

The 2009 Denice Denton emerging leader award, sponsored by Microsoft, went to Nadya Mason, assistant professor of physics at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.

The yearly change agent awards, sponsored by Google, honor technical women living and working outside the U.S. This year’s winners share the goal of eliminating poverty in Africa through technology: Halima Ibrahim and Oreoluwa Somolu are from Nigeria and Anne Ikiara from Kenya.

More doings at Hopper
Recruiters represented SAP, top, and Raytheon, bottom, during the Grace Hopper Celebration.More than a hundred kindergarten through grade 12 CS and IT teachers who work with underrepresented populations of students attended the first K-12 computing teachers equity workshop, funded by the National Science Foundation, Motorola Foundation and IBM. “The workshop was created to help bring more students into the technical pipeline,” says Deanna Kosaraju, programs VP at ABI.

Chris Stephenson, executive director of the Computer Science Teachers Association, notes that “We began by hoping there would be at least a hundred teachers interested in attending and were astounded to receive more than 650 applications.”

Kosaraju goes on to remark that “In a climate where conference attendance and support have gone down, we’ve seen an increase in both here at Grace Hopper. I believe that says volumes about the service ABI provides through this conference. It is truly a life-changing experience for the many technical women who attend.”

About ABI
The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology provides resources and programs to help industry, academia and government recruit, retain and develop women leaders in high-tech fields, resulting in higher levels of technological innovation. ABI programs serve high-tech women by creating a community and providing tools to help them develop their careers. ABI is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization. Its partners include Google, Microsoft, HP, Cisco, First Republic Bank, Intel, National Science Foundation, NetApp, SAP, Sun Microsystems, Symantec, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Thomson Reuters, CA, Intuit, Amazon, Facebook, Raytheon and Genentech. For more information visit www.anitaborg.org.

The next Grace Hopper Celebration will be held in Atlanta, GA, September 29-October 2, 2010.

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