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Diversity/Careers August/September 2012




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2012 Grace Hopper Celebration:
"over-the-top inspiring"

Conference for technical women will be even bigger this year

'Are we there yet?" That will be a welcome question at this year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), as attendees explore the successes and concerns of women techies in today's world. The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI, Palo Alto, CA) sponsors the annual event, held this year at the Baltimore Convention Center (Baltimore, MD), October 3 to 6.

ABI expects up to 3,600 attendees this year, a jump of more than 25 percent, according to marketing VP Jerri Barrett. "There has been a lot of growth," she acknowledges. "At the career fair, we're expecting 110 companies and organizations compared to last year when we had ninety-nine."

Career fair grows
At the career fair, which starts Wednesday evening and continues through Friday, look for newcomers Dropbox, LinkedIn, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, MasterCard Worldwide, the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF), Dartmouth College, the University of Maryland-Baltimore, and USC's Viterbi School of Engineering.

New sponsors this year represent "some pretty big players," says Barrett, and include online organizations, corporations, government agencies, labs and academia. Some sponsors will have interview booths available. All sponsors will have access to the GHC resume database prior to the conference, and may contact registered attendees to schedule interviews.

Cybersecurity sessions and more
GHC sessions will focus on key technology areas including big data, social collaboration and software security. A Friday session will discuss intrusion prevention, considerations in using a cloud provider, concerns with mobile apps and a general discussion of security technology for airports, borders and emergency response.

A "speed mentoring" session will show attendees the array of opportunities available in cybersecurity, and a panel discussion with female cybersecurity experts will explore some possible career paths.

Inspiration for entrepreneurs
A tech entrepreneurs lab on Thursday, October 4 is for those considering starting a new venture, or who want to explore what it takes to be an entrepreneur. "A lot of women are taking the entrepreneurial path, and this lab gives them some inspirational people to meet," says Barrett. The hands-on workshop will open with a presentation by Robin Chase, founder and CEO of Buzzcar, a service that brings together car owners and drivers in a car-sharing marketplace. Chase has been recognized for innovation, design, and environmental contributions including Time magazine's 100 most influential people, Fast Company's Fast 50 innovators, and BusinessWeek's top 10 designers. She graduated from Wellesley College and MIT's Sloan School of Management, and was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow.

Also presenting at the lab will be Sharon Vosmek from Astia, a global not-for-profit organization that supports women's participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses.

Government tech and underrepresented groups
This year's conference takes place less than fifty miles from Washington, DC; for the first time, GHC will offer a high-level panel of technology leaders in government to talk about technology's role in solving major societal problems.

Also new this year is the Women of Underrepresented Groups (WURG) track focusing on women from traditionally underrepresented groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and people with disabilities. "This segment came out of conversations about how women themselves are underrepresented in technology, but some groups are even more underrepresented," notes Barrett.

The WURG track will highlight unique aspects about each culture as well as issues common to all women in computing. The presenter is Carol Evanoff, a well-known strategic planner, coach and mentor for the aerospace/defense industry, professional organizations and educators. She retired in January 2011 from the Navy's Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific where she was the Lockheed Martin resident director.

The WURG lunch keynote speaker will be Chieko Asakawa from IBM Japan. Dr Asakawa lost her vision in her early teens, and her groundbreaking work in digital Braille and voice browsers is helping the blind community not just in Japan, but also in the United States, Europe and Asia. She is an ABI 2011 Women of Vision Leadership award winner. Asakawa joined IBM in 1985 and became an IBM Fellow in 2009.

Keynotes and an anniversary
Other keynote speakers include Nora Denzel, senior vice president at Intuit (Mountain View, CA). Denzel is responsible for establishing, directing and implementing Intuit's data strategy, social design and central marketing programs. She earned her bachelors degree in computer science from the State University of New York and an MBA from Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA).

Friday's keynoter will be Dr Anita Jones, University Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA) and a professor of computer science in its School of Engineering and Applied Science. In 2010, the National Academy of Engineering gave her the Arthur M. Bueche Award for contributions to science and technology policy advancement. Dr Jones holds an AB from Rice University (Houston, TX) in mathematics, a masters in literature from the University of Texas-Austin, and a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA).

This year ABI marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Systers, the world's largest email community of women in computing, founded by Anita Borg. It promotes computing and technology interests among a private community of over 3,000 women in fifty-four nations around the world. Over the years the community has been an important source of support for sometimes isolated women computing professionals, since its controlled membership allows frank discussions. "It's like Las Vegas," Barrett winks. "What happens in Systers stays in Systers."

Inspiration and service
Other popular and familiar events that attendees can look forward to include the awards ceremony, which will honor distinguished technical women and those who are working toward the recruitment, retention and advancement of technical women. Also slated are a leadership workshop, Computer Research Association career development sessions for researchers and students, and the second Grace Hopper Open Source Day, which enables attendees to code for humanitarian causes in a dynamic, collaborative environment.

"There's a lot to do," Barrett emphasizes. "What I like about this event is how open the speakers are to engaging with anybody. At some conferences, the speakers disappear, but here they actively participate.

"Grace Hopper is over-the-top inspiring."

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