Record-breaking Attendance, Thought-provoking Keynotes, and “Creating Technology for Social Good” Theme Highlight Largest Gathering of Women in Computing in the World
2009 Change Agent Award Winners Halima Ibrahim, Anne Ikiara and Oreoluwa Somolu with Telle Whitney and Alan Eustace
PALO ALTO, Calif. — October 22, 2009—The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI) concluded this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing with an unprecedented level of attendance which was up by 11 percent since last year, a well-received debut of its new I am a Technical Woman video, and thought-provoking keynotes delivered by Megan Smith vice president, new business development and general manager, Google.org and Fran Berman, vice president for research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The world’s largest gathering of women in computing, the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is a four-day technical conference designed to bring together the research and career interests of women in computing and highlight their accomplishments across industry, academia and government. The conference, attended by more than 1,574 people, was held in Tucson, Arizona, September 30-October 3, 2009.
Titled Creating Technology for Social Good, this year’s GHC featured more than 100 panels, workshops and birds of a feather sessions, and more than 430 speakers. Keynote speaker Megan Smith of Google.org spoke about interconnectedness as the central theme for the 21st century. “People are now able to connect with each other in unprecedented ways through new networks and digital tools,” said Smith. “Computer science is the vehicle at the center of delivering important building blocks for society today. It’s vital that people with diverse backgrounds get involved. Only with a globally diverse group of computer scientists working to contribute, prioritize and innovate will we see solutions appropriate for the diverse set of problems we face globally.”
Keynote speaker Fran Berman addressed the importance of innovation as the key to a successful future. “A focus on preparation and pipeline is necessary to help create the systems today needed to ensure a next generation of innovators,” said Berman. “Diversity is important because the larger the pool of participants, the better we can maximize our potential for innovation. We need to consider the best and the brightest, regardless of gender or background, to create the strong, innovative leadership needed to guide us to current and future success.”
A group of high-ranking technology executives who spoke on a plenary panel about What You Need to Know on the Road to Becoming a Technology Executive provided additional insights to conference attendees. Participants included Linda Brisnehan, vice president military support programs, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company; Nora Denzel, senior vice president and general manager, payroll, Intuit Corporation; Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering, Facebook; Sophie Vandebroek, chief technology officer and president, Xerox Innovation Group; and Werner Vogels, chief technology officer, Amazon.
Some themes that emerged from the plenary discussion:
- A career should be treated as an obstacle course rather than a clear path – you’ll treat challenges differently if you expect them, and be energized by them.
- It is important to maintain your “technical chops” regardless of how far you advance in your career; there will always be situations when technical expertise from all levels is required.
- Every company you work for should have at its core, the feeling that people’s lives are being improved.
- During tough economic times, it’s more important than ever to have a passion for what you do – if you’re passionate, you’ll find the right course.
GHC Award Winners
Each year, GHC presents awards to women who demonstrate technical leadership, and whose work in technology has had a significant social impact or brings about positive change. This year’s winners include:
2009 Anita Borg Social Impact Award: Ekaterina Fedotova, project director for IDEA (Information and Dissemination & Equal Access), a community-based network providing basic and job-related computer skills training to increase employability among underserved, disadvantaged populations in 51 cities across Russia’s 42 regions. This award is sponsored by Microsoft.
2009 Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award: Ruzena Bajcsy, professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley where she is also director emeriti of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). This award is sponsored by Cisco.
2009 Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award: Nadya Mason, assistant professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This award is sponsored by Microsoft.
2009 Change Agent Awards
The Change Agent Awards honor technical women living and working outside the United States who work in their community to attract and support women in technology. Sponsored by Google, this year’s Change Agent Award winners share the common goal of eliminating poverty in Africa through technology:
- Halima Ibrahim (Nigeria), whose initiative the Mu’assassatul Mar’aatus Saliha Women’s Skill Acquisition Centre is one of the biggest initiatives to emerge from the Community Technology Skills Program in Nigeria over the last three years.
- Anne Ikiara (Kenya), general manager of Nairobits Trust, an organization dealing with youth/women empowerment through ICT in the non-formal settlements of Nairobi.
- Oreoluwa Somolu (Nigeria), founder of Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre, Somolu is passionate about empowering women/girls of Nigeria through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as well as encouraging them to take up technology careers.
“We’re extremely pleased about the overwhelming success of this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration,” said Deanna Kosaraju, vice president of programs, Anita Borg Institute. “In a climate where conference attendance and support has gone down, we’ve seen an increase in both, which I believe says volumes about the service that ABI provides through this conference. It is truly a life-changing experience for the many technical women who attend.”
I Am a Technical Woman Video
The second day of GHC featured the premiere of a new video, I am a Technical Woman, which highlights the diversity of technical women. The video picked up 900 views on YouTube the first day alone, and 4260 views to date. It was distributed for use in schools to the 100 high school teachers who attended the conference. The video is available for download from the Anita Borg Institute website.
ABI announced that next year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, September 29-October 2, 2010.
About the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI)
The Anita Borg Institute provides resources and programs to help industry, academia, and government recruit, retain, and develop women leaders in high-tech fields, resulting in higher levels of technological innovation. ABI programs serve high-tech women by creating a community and providing tools to help them develop their careers. ABI is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 charitable organization. ABI Partners include: Google, Microsoft, HP, Cisco, First Republic Bank, Intel, National Science Foundation, NetApp, SAP, Sun Microsystems, Symantec, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Thomson Reuters, CA, Intuit, Amazon, Facebook, Raytheon, and Genentech. For more information, visit www.anitaborg.org.
Anita Borg Institute