Over 8,000 women in technology sharing and learning

Greetings from the Anita Borge Institute’s Grace Hopper Conference, also known as Celebration of Women in Computing. For all those who are too young to remember who Grace Hopper was, she was an American computer scientist and U.S. Navy rear admiral from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The conference is much larger than I expected, there were over 8,000 attendees from over 60 countries. This is double of last year’s attendees! It was a sold-out event with over 1,000 people on the wait list. Out of the over 8,000 attendees, 3,200 students from 440 colleges and universities and 1,300 volunteers and … 483 were men. The GHC is well supported by the vendor community, with 42 vendor partners.

The conference topics ranged from career development to technology topics, such as building a professional persona, constructing reliable topology in wireless sensor networks, deploying an application on the cloud, communicating for impact and influence. There are lots of Canadian connections, a large contingent of students, and the top prize, the 2014 ABIE was awarded to Ann Condon, a professor from the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Maria Klawe, who used to be Dean at UBC and is now the president of Harvey Mudd College, interviewed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

And speaking of the Nadella interview, this week I saw him being interviewed by Gartner analysts. What a difference! At the Gartner interview he was all business with technology predictions and explanations, while at the GHC he showed that he is a warm human being. He was relaxed and told of personal experiences. He talked about his family, of the challenge of having two special needs children (one is a quadriplegic), work-life balance (which he refers to as work-life harmony) and that he runs three miles a day. He always liked working with women, he says. “Women have lower tolerance for bullshit.”

But none of the above was reported by the press, just his response to the question, how would you advise women to ask for raises. He said they should just trust the system. Dr Klawe told him she disagrees, and through an anecdote, she suggested that women do their homework regarding salary information.

There was also a large career fair with many high tech company representatives such as Microsoft, Facebook. Pinterest, Amazon, Google, Cisco, Apple, Intel and a number of universities and colleges, where women interested in working for these companies could get more information.

The Grace Hopper Conference is an amazing gathering of women in technology. It is unique with the programs described above, offering childcare services during the conference. How many other conferences do that? They also have a unique program called G2T2 (give 2, take 2) where participants are encouraged to write a piece of advice that they would like to share with a GHC attendee and “give her two cents” by dropping the completed card in a ballot box. Then comes the take two cents by drawing a fellow attendee’s card from the ballot box. The organizers hope that attendees learn from each other’s successes and challenges and get a unique perspective through someone else’s lens. With over 8,000 women in attendance, there is a lot to learn!

Catherine Aczel Boivie
Catherine Aczel Boivie
Dr. Catherine Aczel Boivie is a widely respected executive with over 30 years of experience in the leadership of advancing the value of information technology as a business and education enabler. Prior executive roles includes: CEO Inventure Solutions and Senior Vice President of Information Technology/Facility Management for Vancity Credit Union; SVP of IT and Chief Information Officer at Pacific Blue Cross and Canadian Automobile Association of British Columbia. Catherine is also an experienced board member serving on several boards, including those of Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, Canada Foundation for Innovation and MedicAlert Canada. Dr. Boivie is the founding Chair and President of the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Association of Canada that has over 400 Chief Information Officers as members across Canada. She has been publicly recognized for her contributions, including being named as one of Canada's top 100 most powerful women by the Women's Executive Network in the "Trailblazers and Trendsetters" category and the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for being a "catalyst for technology transformation".

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