Sunday, August 10, 2008

Feeling Connected

Going down the memory lane, as I contemplate on the connection between myself and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, I realize that it took me quite a while to really get interested in it. That’s the usual me though! It takes me a while to develop interest in topics or things that are targeted for a particular section of the society. What's the big deal about not being a male or being a non-male interested in technology? Why do they have a conference targeted at women? Thoughts like these were plenty. However, over all these years I have understood the importance of diversity in any technical or non-technical venture, have seen the decline in the number of women enrolling in computer science programs, and have felt the need to do something extra to make computer science look attractive to women.

In 2004: Came to know about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing when I saw the poster in the break-room of the department. Got curious about it and talked to people about the same. None of my peers knew much about it then. My friend Vetria, who is senior to me in the PhD program, was the only soul apart from the faculty in the department who knew about GHC.

2005: A friend mentioned every now and then that I should keep my eyes and ears open about the conference. However, I did not have good enough reasons to look up for any information about the conference and the motivation level was really low. So I didn’t even care to google about it this particular year. Not sure if there was a conference in this year.

2006: Saw a very encouraging e-mail from a professor in my department to attend the conference. Thought of submitting a poster to the conference but missed the deadline…sighs!

2007: Submitted the work to the “New Investigators” category. The paper did not get accepted and therefore I couldn’t have asked my department for travel awards. I did not have enough funds to manage the total cost of attending the conference. Thumbs down! I did not realize that there were other channels to get the funds from and did not think that attending the conference just for networking and learning more were good enough reasons to participate. Nonetheless, by this time my awareness level about the conference and it's impact was very high. I was comfortable in jabbering about this with my peers and did not realize that I ended up motivating some of them to attend the conference.

2008: Submitted a paper in the “New Investigators” category and it got accepted. That gave me a sound reason to approach my department for the travel funds and also gave me confidence to apply for the GHC scholarship. Vetria applied for the scholarship too and we both got the award. Two women from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to attend the GHC! When it rains it pours : - ). We both are very excited to attend the conference and have already made our flight and shuttle reservations.

Now that I feel I am totally connected with GHC, I am looking forward to the conference with lots of expectations. In the four other conferences I have been to so far, I noticed that women were mostly seen behind the registration desk, sparingly seen in the conference sessions and never seen during an after-talk interaction session (general networking). I wonder how it would feel to be at a conference of the women in computing, for the women in computing, by the women in computing. I wonder if there would be any males interested in attending the conference (apart from the ones out there to lend moral support to their significant others and the ones invited by the GHC). I wonder if it would have mattered to the conference attendees if GHC wasn’t a women’s conference. There are lot many things I am wondering about at this moment and I hope to get most of the answers at the conference.

2 comments:

Kathy Richardson said...

GHC is an experience like no other. Until you've been there, it is impossible to understand the magic.

You get to be a technologist and a woman at the same time!!

I have found very few occations in my professional life when that has been the case. I either wear the engineer hat, or the I'm a woman hat. Even in most women in technology groups, I've there as a woman.

I went to the very first GHC in 1994 just as I was finishing my PhD. It was a great time to go and see other women that were really successful and totally excited about the technology they worked on. It was so different from the other technical conferences I'd been to, where the men were trying to look/act really important.

Congratulations on your paper being accepted!!

Ritu Arora said...

Thanks a lot Kathy :)! The posts and comments in this blog make me more curious about GHC.

On tha basis of your experience, I can feel that GHC is going to be a very special conference and I am more excited than ever to be there. See you there...

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