I was doing this post for the "women in computer science" group at my school and thought of sharing my views here as well .
In this year’s conference there were over 1600 women from diverse backgrounds, right from sociology to cloud computing. It feels great (and secure) to be surrounded by so many technical women! When I am at the GHC conference, I don’t have to worry about admitting to the person sitting beside me that I feel really technically-challenged when it comes to gadgets - I actually admitted this to a woman sitting beside me when I couldn’t get my camcorder to work the way I wanted and she echoed the same sentiment. I felt awesome about not being alone :-). It is this feeling that you are not alone which is so comforting and you can get this feeling only by being at the GHC! You are not alone when it comes to the “Imposter Syndrome” and you are definitely not alone if you find it challenging to be a person of influence.
There is a bright chance of finding support groups at GHC- for example, I got in touch with people who support Information, Communication & Technology for Development (ICTD) and we are now working together towards starting a collaborative virtual project that has immense potential of creating social impact. You can find a mentor or a cool buddy at GHC to share your concerns about issues that you don’t have courage to discuss at your workplace or school. Also, if you are interested in learning about the kind of work that the top notch IT companies are doing (right from Intel to Facebook), you might get a chance to interact with their employees at their booths.
Surprisingly, some people (I met them during different legs of my GHC trip) call this conference as sexist as they feel that the focus is primarily on women in technology, the challenges they face and how they can overcome those challenges. I don’t really care about this sexist/non-sexist thing - the main thing is that I end-up having a good time at the GHC. Such conferences are a chance to feel motivated and do well in life despite the challenges, because you hear so many success-stories when you are there. When you come across stories which are not “success stories”- read failures- they keep you grounded and propel you to do extremely well in life and make the most of the resources you have.
Some of the unique features of this conference (as compared to the other conferences that I have attended) are:
- Free Childcare
- CONNECT scanners to network with other conference attendees – this makes your networking experience really convenient (http://gracehopper.org/2009/community/connect/)
- Awards ceremony and sponsor nights are extremely enjoyable
- Soft-Skills enhancement sessions
- Awesome community volunteers who blog and take notes of sessions so that if you couldn’t attend them, you can always refer to the online material to know what it was all about!
- Number of women participants- greater than 1600!
- Ahem…cute swags - for example umbrellas, tote bags, and chocolates