This article is published in the November 2014 issue.

Exciting Events at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

The 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, held in Phoenix from Oct. 8th – 10th, hit several milestones this year. First, conference attendance dramatically increased to 8000 attendees from 4700 in 2013. Also, the first-ever Male Allies plenary panel, with top executives from Google, Facebook, GoDaddy, and Intuit, occurred; this panel was a well-intentioned session, but created more controversy among the attendees than the Grace Hopper Conference attendees have ever seen. And with a remark during his keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the issue of pay equality for men and women front page news and brought the conference to the attention of the world. These milestones led to several interesting hallway conversations, some of which verged on arguments with significantly different points of view. One thing was clear, however; most of the attendees (perhaps all) agree that we need men (and women) to solve the diversity challenges that exist. So kudos to Satya and the other top male executives for having the interest and courage to come to an event that is 95% female. And further kudos to the companies that are implementing changes in their organizations based on what transpired during this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Until women represent close to 50% of those in the computing industry, we need to continue these important conversations.

Another exciting event at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration was the debut of the Notable Women in Computing card deck. Created by Katy Dickinson, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, and CRA-W Board member Susan Rodger (Duke University) to help publicize the CRA-W and Anita Borg Institute project to write Wikipedia pages for Notable Women in Computing, you can now play your favorite card games while learning about notable women in computing. Purchase your card deck today!

Since 2009 CRA-W has helped provide career mentoring content for attendees interested in academic and industrial research at the undergraduate, graduate, early career, and mid-senior career levels. Designed to be “bite-sized” versions of our longer workshops, including the Grad Cohort Workshop and Career Mentoring Workshops, our programs at Grace Hopper allow us to reach hundreds of attendees with career advice and make them aware of the additional programs CRA-W offers.

The CRA-W mentoring sessions took place on the afternoon of Oct 8th. For undergraduates, CRA-W staffed tables in the Student Opportunity Lab on four different topics: Undergraduate Research Experience, What Happens in Graduate School, How to Get Accepted to Graduate School, and Master’s or Ph.D.? The Anita Borg Institute introduced the Student Opportunity Lab format in 2013 and continued it this year due to its popularity. The Lab is a large conference room with about 50 tables, each with different topics and 1-2 mentors. Short 20 minute sessions allow small groups of students to have interactive discussions with mentors at many different tables over the four-hour Student Opportunity Lab session. CRA-W Board member Andrea Danyluk (Williams College) coordinated our tables and recruited our 26 talented mentors. Mentors included graduate students who have participated in CRA-W programs previously, as well as speakers from our other sessions; the forum provides a fun way for more women to share their experiences with others. Table mentors frequently tell us that these small group interactions are one of their favorite parts of the Grace Hopper Celebration.


The CRA-W track for Graduate Students focuses on helping attendees succeed in graduate school with three sessions: “Graduate School Survival Skills”, presented by Jamika Burge (Information Systems Worldwide) and Rachel Pottinger (University of British Columbia), “Building Your Professional Persona”, presented by Patty Lopez (Intel) and Jaime Teevan (Microsoft Research), and “Building Your Professional Network” presented by Elizabeth Bautista (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) and Raquell Holmes (Boston University). These sessions are consistently popular at Grace Hopper, as illustrated by over 200 attendees in each session this year.

CRA-W sessions for Early Career Faculty began with “Finding Your Dream Job”, presented by Jaeyeon Jung (Microsoft Research) and Lana Yarosh (University of Minnesota). Gillian Hayes (UC-Irvine) and Susan Rodger (Duke University) then discussed “Starting, Managing and Growing Your Own Research Program.” Lastly, attendees learned about “Preparing for Promotion” from speakers Kathryn McKinley (Microsoft Research) and Dilma Da Silva (Texas A & M University). “Finding Your Dream Job” always attracts a crowd, and had the most attendees once again (well over 200 this year). CRA-W sessions for mid-senior level faculty started with a discussion of Successful Leadership by Lori Pollock (University of Delaware) and Kathryn McKinley (Microsoft Research). Deb Agarwal (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and Nancy Amato (Texas A & M University) then discussed “Managing Up”, and the day ended with an interactive session devoted to attendee-chosen Career Mentoring Topics organized by Susan Rodger (Duke University).


Notable Women in Computing Playing Cards – a Full House

Other content organized by CRA-W Board members at this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration included a panel entitled “Prof or Prez: Choosing Your Panel” organized and moderated by Andrea Danyluk (Williams College) that highlighted the range of career possibilities for Senior Academics with four accomplished women panelists: Fran Berman (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Jan Cuny (National Science Foundation), Maria Klawe (Harvey Mudd College), and Mary Lou Soffa (University of Virginia). The “Visibility Everywhere: Building Web/Social Media Presence for Women in Computing” panel organized by Susan Rodger (Duke University) covered how to maintain your personal web presence and also covered the CRA-W and Anita Borg Institute project to write Wikipedia pages for Notable Women in Computing. Ruthe Farmer (NCWIT) moderated the panel; panelists included Susan Rodger (Duke University), Tracy Camp (Colorado School of Mines), Patty Lopez (Intel), and me. Lastly, several posters from the CRA-W Collaborative Research Experience for Undergraduates (CREU) program were presented in the Wednesday evening poster session.

Terrific CRA staff members Erik Russell, Ama Nyame-Mensah, and Heather Wright, with support from several CRA-W Board members, ensured our CRA-W booth in the very busy exhibition hall was always fully staffed. We kept busy answering questions and encouraging folks to participate in CRA-W programs. All in all, it was a busy and eventful conference. We look forward to Grace Hopper 2015 in Houston, Texas.

Slides from CRA-W sessions are available here. The ABI Grace Hopper wiki includes notes taken by attendees on many sessions.

About the author:

A.J. Brush is a Senior Research at Microsoft Research. Her research area is Human-Computer Interaction with a focus on Ubiquitous Computing and current obsession with Smart Homes. After four fun years of organizing the CRA-W workshops at Grace Hopper, in October 2014 she became Co-Chair of CRA-W with Nancy Amato (Texas A&M University).