Wednesday Sep 09, 2009

Why I'm glad I went to the Grace Hopper Conference in '08 and can't wait for this year

Last year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing was such an amazing experience for me, that I can't wait to attend again this year!

There is something almost magical about being surrounded by technical women. I didn't have to worry for one second about sounding too nerdy or about asking questions about something I didn't understand.  At this conference I felt an unparalleled sense of belonging.

I spent some time working at the Sun Microsystems' informational booth, which was an incredible way to connect with students and other women in the industry who were interested in the technologies I've worked so closely with over the last decade. I'll be around there again this year, so please stop by and hear about the work I've been doing in the field of computer security over the last year.

This conference has such a great balance of technical content and soft skills that I don't feel overwhelmed by either aspect at the end of the day. In fact, I can't wait to get together with other attendees in the evening to hear about sessions I missed and share my own experiences from the day.

Last year's conference was intense, educational and life changing, that I cannot imagine for one second missing this year's event. Hope to see you all there! I'll be the woman with the laptop...

oh, wait, unlike other conferences, that won't be enough to identify me by. :-)

Friday Oct 03, 2008

GHC08: Final Night

What a fantastic conference this has been. Unlike many other conferences I've attended, I seem to have no downtime. I'm constantly networking, attending sessions, blogging... and this year, fighting an uncooperative dying laptop. The energy here is fantastic, the balance of technical talks with "soft skills" is perfect. I only wish we all had more time together, that the sessions were longer, and the breaks were longer (for more networking). Of course, that would only be possible if the conference itself were longer... but a woman can dream, can't she?

I staffed the Sun booth yesterday morning, fielding all sorts of questions on OpenSolaris, Solaris Security, types of jobs we do at Sun, opportunities for students and just general questions about what Sun does. I enjoy what I do here, so getting an opportunity to talk about it was a true pleasure. If I missed any of you at the booth, please send me an email or drop me a comment here.

While here, I got to meet so many students, I think I even met all of the students and faculty from Purdue as well. I really enjoy hearing about the new research and areas of focus.  The conference is only 50% students, though, so I also met so many inspiring career women.

Tonight Sun hosted a small private reception for the Sun employees and some outstanding women we all met throughout the conference. It was great to talk more in depth with these women, but again it seemed we just did not have enough time as we all rushed off for dinner provided by Google and Microsoft. Yum!

In addition to healthy, delicious food and cute t-shirts (Microsoft's t-shirts being made from bamboo and organic cotton - yay, Microsoft!) we again had DANCING! Imagine hundreds of women (and about 5 men) line dancing. Truly a site to behold. Unfortunately, I didn't bring the cable for my camera, but hopefully photos will be uploaded soon. It was quite a site to see!

Now I'm tired and need to start sorting through my stuff to see what I can fit in my suitcase. All the giveaways in the bag this year were really good, and anything folks didn't want someone has been collecting to give to charity.

Until next year :-)

Valerie Fenwick

GHC08: Keynote: Mary Lou Jepsen: unofficial blog

Sleeping has been difficult here, I think it's the altitude (and staying up too late trying to get this laptop to cooperate....), but I was very glad I drug myself out of bed this morning to make the Keynote.

I wasn't the official blogger for this session, but got so much out of it I wanted to add more to Kate's entry.  Ms. Jepsen was such an inspiring speaker - describing how she started a completely different adventure (it's hard to describe One Laptop Per Child as just a career) based on her strong desire to make a difference.  She leveraged her expertise in optics to come up with an amazing new monitor for the OLPCs - one that uses low power, is normally just black & white (with a higher power consumption mode that uses a backlight and color as an option), and has the CPU behind it (so your lap doesn't get hot!).

I just love seeing when someone just follows their dream and finds success. It's inspiration for all of us!

GHC08: Unofficial blog: The Imposter Panel

I'm sitting in the Imposter Panel, though not an official blogger for this particular session, I am just overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in here. It's great to know thta I'm clearly not the only one that often feels like an imposter in various technical situations. These women on the panel, in addition to all being very funny, are all very insightful.  They are all so very accomplished, yet they al feel like (or have felt like) imposters at one time or another.

Dr. Williams made a great comment: "I am the creator of my own experience."

Essentially, nobody ever told her she was an imposter, she was telling herself she was. So, she decided to stop telling herself that, and her confidence gets better & better every day.

The entire panel was wonderful - I just wish there were more hours in the day to attend sessions at Grace Hopper. They all seem to end too soon.

My computer woes have gotten worse and worse - now my networking driver is failing to attach, the wired connection is working, so I assume this is an additional hardware issue. Oh, and the CPU is throwing errors now, too. So, that brand new laptop has become a very expensive, slow to boot, word processor (does "vi" count as word processing  software?).  One of the fanstastic Sun recruiters lent me her laptop, and I ran off to the imposter session, desperate to upload my last blog from my thumb drive.  Alas, this session was so crowded, I couldn't obtain an IP address! But, small wonders keep happening at this converence - a wonderful woman sitting next to me offered me her laptop, where I'm blogging from right now.

Valerie Fenwick

GHC08: Women in the Brave New World of Open Source

This was my first time speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and it was so exciting! I had just met most of the other panelists yesterday (didn't meet Stormy Peters until lunch today), and found it was so cool to find all the things we had in common and just as interestingly, all the differences we had in experiences, opinions and careers. The panel went really well - the more we talked, the more ideas we all had that we wanted to share. It was great sharing my eperiences with working on OpenSolaris with others, particularly the students. I hope between the OpenSolaris bite-sized bugs, the Linux "janitorial" work and the Google Summer of Code that we will gain many new women in the world of open source after this conference.  I wish we'd had more time, and do hope to hear more from the students that were there as well as the other women in industry. Together we can learn and discover more in the world of computing. More later...

Valerie Fenwick

GHC08: Climbing the Technical Ladder: Obstacles and Solutions for Mid-Level Technical Women

Caroline Simard (Anita Borg Institute of Technology) and Andrea Henderson (CalState Northridge) presented a new study done by ABI and the Clayman Institute at Stanford University on men and women in the high tech industry in the Silicon Valley at 7 hight tech companies.

Ms. Simard started off the presentation with the broad statement that diversity is good for business and social tasks, which has been backed up by research study after research study.  And while it has been shown that women control 80% of the consumer spending, men are still designing 90% of technical products.  More frighteningly, women only make up 13% of the board of directors of Fortune 500 companies and less than 5% of the executives.

The research study they did found that men are more likely to be in a senior postion than women (24% vs 10%), even though men and women surveyed had nearly the same distribution of higher level degrees.

Ms. Henderson then continued the talk to let us know that women are more likely to make decisions like delaying having children (30% of women vs 18% of men) in order to advance their careers, or forgo having children all together (9% of women vs 3.5% of men).  Another odd statistic out of this study was that the majority of women in high tech careers also have a partner in high tech (68.5%).

The presentation then went on to perceptions of success, covering what men and women considered to be the top attributes of success and then self assessment of how many of those attributes they think they have. One big noted attribute is that women believe you must work long hours in order to be successful (a belief that the men in the survey did not agree with), but don't believe they can meet those needs. Such self discrepencies can actually be a big barrier to success all on its own.

Women in high tech companies really want to see more investment by the company in corporate development on the job (as opposed to relying on the employee to do it in their "spare time"), make mentoring a part of the corporate culture and fix the wage gap.  Ms. Simard notes that it is just not true that women don't care about financial rewards and being paid fairly for their work. Their survey showed that women care just as much about health benefits, financial rewards and salary as their male counterparts.

The survey showed that some of the most important things to high tech women was for the company to invest in professional development on the job, mentoring to be a part of the corporate culture and to see the wage gap corrected.

Discussion came around one of my favorite books, Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. Apparently the authors did a follow up study and discovered that women who negotiated were more likely to be seen in a negative light by both men and women. Ms. Henderson & Ms. Simard noted that there was a lot of research finding that gender bias is very ingraned in both men and women, so as women we actually need to work at this ourselves and make sure we are aware when we are making such judgements.  Ms. Simard noted that women who are most successful are able to "tune" their assertiveness depending on the situation and whom they are talking to.

Valerie Fenwick
 

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Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at http://bubbva.blogspot.com/

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