Grace Hopper Celebration
Being a pioneer in the computing field which is regarded to be male-dominant is challenging for many women. Despite the social-economical challenges, some walk in heels, let their skills shine and serve their communities as best as they can. The history has being made and our lives have been shaped for the better by such women. Among such women is Grace, Grace Brewster Murray Hopper who pioneered in automated computing. Denials of opportunities had not kept Grace from reaching her potential, serving her country during the World War II , being renowned for building the first compiler, and inspiring young people as an educator and a mentor. Around the world there are many girls who are striving to be Grace and Grace Hopper Celebration of women in computing (GHC) occurs annually from year 1994 (https://anitab.org/about-us/mission-and-history/), to support such girls.
GHC is one of the initiatives by AnitaB.Org and is the largest gathering of women in computing in the world. In 2017, GHC had the attendance of around 18000 women in Orlando Florida, USA and I was given the opportunity be a part of it as a GHC scholar. The staggering overall impact of GHC’17 is reported in the impact report of GHC’17, and GHC’17 certainly brought an impact on me as an individual.
Myself as a GHC scholar
GHC scholars consists of women around the world and are given the financial support to attend the celebration with a scholarship covering the registration, airfare and accommodation. Personally, GHC has been a dream for me since I was a Computer Engineering undergraduate and that dream would not have been made a reality, had I not been offered a scholarship from AnitB.Org.
I have been fortunate to be mentored by many women throughout my (short) career so far and I have always been inspired by the energy, dedication and the skills which women bring to the workplace. GHC is my first time to be in the United States of America and being from the other part of the world, it was a life changing experience. To meet women from around the world who are actively engaged in the field of computing in such an environment opened me up to a world which I never knew existed.
GHC’17 kick started with keynotes from leading women in computing, including Dr. Fei-Fei Li, Director, Stanford University AI Lab / Chief Scientist, Google Cloud AI & ML and Melinda Gates, Founder, Pivotal Ventures/ Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I have many memos from the event and highlights of the keynotes were “AI requires to be more humane and we need to make sure it is”, from Fei Fei Li and “Realisation of big dreams come with superior failures”, words of Melinda Gates.
The celebration also included appreciation of women for their leaderships shown in the field and for being change makers, namely ABIE awards. It was great to hear their stories explaining how they overcome the challenges over the process and to learn their dreams and vision for the future. World is bound to be a better place with such people around.
The three day event also had a career fair running throughout where the participants were given the opportunity to network with techcompanies including Facebook, Google, Oracle, NBC and Salesforce. I bet a lot of companies found their next set of leaders at the event and a lot of participants got the opportunity to learn about the organisations in which they want to be part of, if not nail an opportunity to be on board with the team right away.
The celebration included many career guidance and mentoring opportunities for women in both academia and industry and for both professionals and students. The topics discussed ranged from defining a research theme, developing a career in engineering to becoming a person of influence.
There were also many technical presentations covering a vast range of specialisations such as data science, computer networks, life science and multimedia. In addition, GHC’17 had made a platform for women from different ethnicities, countries and communities to express and discuss the challenges which they face and formulate solutions for them together.
As a GHC scholar, the 679 of us got the opportunity to meet and learn about each other as much as we can while sharing our accommodation throughout the event. I shared my accommodation with a wonderful soul, Divya who is a graduate student from the University of Massachusetts, UMass university. During the stay, we laughed a lot, shared our experiences and also argued on how the existing systems should be changed in order to give more access to less privileged communities. She brought a different perspective to my view on some aspects and knowing her was definitely a memorable experience for me.
My participation in GHC’17 is full of inspiring memories. Never had I ever been felt, so much appreciated and inspired. GHC definitely opened me up to a world of opportunities and pushed me to achieve more, and contribute to my community which may be not as privileged or abundant as others in the world.
Above all, GHC’17 has been the gift for the little girl who had little, yet dreamt a lot, who hit many stones, yet was with hands to help, who knew she would make it, because so had many before her with less than what she has, and that gift is to remind her she has a lot to do and she is not alone.
I wish we could make many such dreams come true, because that is how we make this world a better place: by empowering people to dream more beyond their boundaries and ensuring that their ability to reach them is not limited by who they are and they are graced for what they do.