The best part of the Grace Hopper Convention is happening right now
5 months before it even starts
Chances are if you work in tech you have heard of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC). It‘s an enormous conference (15k attendees) to do exactly what that title says- celebrate women in computing. This means it is the largest annual gathering of women in tech, and the 1000 or so dudes who brave the wilds and are rewarded with absolutely no line at the urinal.
Last year I went for the first time. I went to talk about education, and I got to meet some truly passionate, awesome ladies. The conference itself was as most conferences are- “conference”-y. That is to say filled with lines, mediocre hotels and more than enough small talk for a calendar year. It was fun, but I wondered to myself if I would go again the next year.
In January they opened applications for 2017 speakers, due March 8th. I made a mental note to decide if I wanted to apply again.
Mid-February I started to see some FB posts:
- “Applying to speak at GHC- here we go!”
- “Never thought I would have something to say, but giving this year a try!”
- “Anyone want to help me review my GHC application?”
The best part of these posts? The comment sections were FILLED with little bundles of love and support. “OMG you’re perfect! Go for it!” “You’re amazing, I can’t wait to come to your talk!” “Send me an email, I’d love to help review it!!”.
Now, I know that in some circles these responses would be considered fake.
Speaking at GHC is a pretty big deal, and it’s competitive- they get like 1600 applications. Why would so many people be encouraging “the competition”? Because ladies in tech have figured out something fundamental:
As a minority, it is of paramount importance that we work to amplify our sisters voices. If we don’t, who will?
This rings true for all minorities, or otherwise dismissed populations. There is a natural tendency for in-fighting- the feeling that only so many of us can “make it” in a field where we aren’t well represented. If there is only going to be one girl, one person of color- that person is going to be me, and I will make it painfully clear I am the “better woman”.
Thank you Baby Jesus I have not encountered this in tech. Perhaps it’s because we work in an industry that is desperately trying to hire ANYONE that can pass the interview, so there isn’t as strong a sense of “if you make it I won’t”. No matter the reason, women in tech seem to have figured out how to be each other’s biggest fans. Ladies in tech are always talking about other ladies in tech, and now we have one of the most high profile conventions in the industry because of it.
This is a documented phenomenon, that when minorities band together their collective voices out ring the sum of the parts.
The women working in the White House under the Obama administration collectively decided on strategies to amplify other women- “When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author.” This way their points were heard over and over and no one else could take credit (which apparently is a big problem in politics).
When President Obama took office, two-thirds of his top aides were men. Women complained of having to elbow their way…www.washingtonpost.com
Another more unlikely example is the most recent season of “Ink Master”, my personal guilty pleasure pick. This season all the female tattoo artists, despite being each other’s top competitors, banded together to stand up for their colleagues’ work- and they succeeded in winning the first female Ink Master in 9 seasons. Not to mention now I am obsessed with gray hair.
America didn't get its first woman president this year. That title went to a reality TV star instead. But on reality TV…www.wired.com
A week ago my best friend (lady engineer) and I were on a road trip, driving from San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) to Anaheim (Disneyland). We spent the car ride trying to think up different topics we could present together at GHC, but as we thought about all the different topics we wanted to hear, we kept coming up with other ladies we knew would do a better job presenting them. We were having so much fun talking about all our awesome lady engineer friends we totally forgot to figure out our own proposal. We decided to call these girls up to tell them “Hey! You should submit to present at GHC”. In that moment I realized- that’s why I submitted last year! Someone forwarded me the link and some words of encouragement. The support of fellow ladies in tech has done amazing things for me and my career- and I hope I always get the chance to pass that along.
In the past few days I have had some of the most heart warming conversations. I officially lost count of how many awesome women reached out to me: “I was curious if you had any advice on how to apply to GHC”, “Do you want to join our panel?”, “We’re writing a workshop- would you be willing to review it for us?” The answer to all is “YES!” I am so fucking lucky to know an incredible number of smart as shit, eloquent and passionate engineers- many of whom happen to be women- and I would love to help any one of you have your voices heard!
So good on you Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing- you have accomplished your goal a whole 8 months before the convention even starts- women supporting and amplifying other women. I can’t wait to go to everyone’s talks, and fingers crossed you’ll get to come to mine.
See you on October 3rd!
A final note- if you have been to Grace Hopper you’ve probably noticed that there is a significant lack of talks by women of color. If you are someone with a diverse voice- please apply, and encourage other women of color to do the same, I promise I will come to every one of your talks ❤
Keep an eye out for more posts from Kasey every other Tuesday as she tells stories from both the classroom and the tech industry. Next post coming 3/14/17