Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Grace Hopper Conference 2014

Below is a blog post by Kate Miller and Bethany Davis on their experience at the Grace Hopper Conference in Phoenix:

Bethany Davis and I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix early October. For three days, thousands of women across the country gathered to talk about the state of the software industry, the rich history of women like Naval Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (who developed the first compiler) and where were going as individuals and colleagues.

Grace Hopper Celebration 2014

There were too many incredible sessions for us to attend them all, but we both gained a lot from it. I attended the international release of the documentary, “The Big Dream,” which follows several young women from different backgrounds including the Comp Sci sisters in Iowa, the homeless computer animator in San Francisco, and a military-minded freshman who had just lost her mother to cancer (her mother was also an engineer). 
I also did technical interview practice questions with fellow nervous interviewees and learned about the effect of body language on negotiations. 

We heard many positive remarks at this confernce -- a social change award recipient, Ruthe Farmer, encouraged HR reps at software companies to start increasing their payroll budgets, “because there are a lot of young women headed your way who are going to negotiate their salaries!” However, not everyone was so positive -- CEO Satya Nadella encourage women not to negotiate, but rather to “trust the system” (an inflammatory statement as Microsoft has only 17% female employees). He apologized for remarks shortly after, but the firestorm is still burning on tech blogs. 

Controversy aside, some exciting developments came out of it: I had several interviews during the conference and even received an internship offer on the first day! We even ran into an old friend: we went out to dinner with Michele at Culinary Dropout. I am happy to report that she is as fabulously successful as ever, and is enjoying her new pool. (Its not too late to come back to Penn, though!)  
Kate, Michele and Bethany

A note on swag: I think if more young women knew about the corporate giveaways at technology conferences, the talent pipeline would overflow. The networking and knowledge gained are of course the most valuable piece of the conference, but my suitcase was filled to the brim with portable chargers, headphones, t-shirts, flip books, nail polish, and much more (most of which I passed along to my little sister, a high school freshman. Im essentially bribing her to become an engineer). 
A slightly more serious note: Though I believe that Penn does an excellent job in its efforts to recruit and retain women in engineering, the fact remains that only about 10% of Computer Science majors are women, and that can feel isolating. The fact that a community like the one that came together at Grace Hopper exists is inspirational, and Im excited to continue to build that network of support at Penn through AWE.
Our lovely Kate and Bethany