Systers Celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2012
The Systers community was created in 1987 by Anita Borg for the purpose of providing a private community for women to discuss their challenges in the workplace and seek advice from other women in the computing fields. Anita Borg was born January 17, 1949, so it is fitting that Systers start the celebration in 2012 with a Global Meetup. At just over 3,000 women strong, there are Systers in more than 54 countries around the world and include women of all ages in government, industry and academia. There are incredible benefits to women who are members of the group, not just from a professional and educational standpoint, but from a personal level as well.
January Global Meetups
2012 marks Systers 25th anniversary and to kick off our celebrations this year, we are holding global meetups in honor of founder Anita Borg, whose birthday was on January 17. Currently, there are 22 U.S. cities and 8 international cities organized for the meetups. One of the main goals of the meetups is to engage with local Systers. Systers helping Systers and other women is how Anita envisioned the growth of our community. Anita always said, “This is hard work,” and although challenging, the global meetups encourage camaraderie, engagement and calls to action. Organized by Systers members, the meetups are open to all technical women. Find your city, or start your own meetup in honor of Anita and connect with other technical women. Make a positive global change through local impact.
Systers is an exclusive community for technical women that may have some argue why even venture into a “women-only club” when the goal has always been to be inclusive. Do we need to justify or address this issue? I’m sure there exist those who oppose this stance, but the disparity in the number of women in technical fields today supports the community’s existence. The email community empowers women to communicate openly and subjectively to the challenges they face in the workforce, at home and at school. The importance of communication for women in a private forum fosters positive engagement and continued growth toward open dialogue. Our comments are protected thus why we are a private community. Anita herself had to justify the existence of a community for “women-only” while the institute works toward equality for women in technical fields. However, the advantages of the community outweigh the controversial perception that some may see as another form of discrimination.
Support and Advice
One of the many challenges women face in technical fields–whether government, industry or academia–is the lack of mentors. Systers provide the women-only interaction needed for mentors and mentees. Experiences are shared so that women can take an educated approach to getting the next promotion, encouraging women in Computer Science when you are the only female professor in the department, or handling backlash as an executive in a high-profile organization because you are a woman. The support that Systers provide is unmatched. College Systers receive encouragement to submit proposals to conferences, Mid-Career Systers gain motivation and confidence to move to the next level, and Entrepreneurial Systers take the risk to open their own companies. The email community is an open forum for women to discuss their challenges, but most importantly for women to find their own voice.
One of the many advantages of Systers over the years has been the expansion of more concentrated discussions with the creation of other communities. Systers wanted more focused discussions about topics related to technology, professions, and underrepresented minorities. Realizing that not only do we have to brave the harsh reality outside the community, but that engagement in more specific subject matters is helpful and necessary. Other communities such as ResearcHers, Systers-TechTalk, Latinas in Computing (LiC), and Black Women in Computing (BWiC) offer more diverse conversations that address additional challenges women face. A more recent new community is Systers-Foss for Systers interested in free and open source software. All follow similar guidelines and discussion model as Systers although some may additional requirements for joining their group.
Pass-It-On Award Program
Part of Systers’ commitment to the community is that each member pledges to support other women in technical fields or want to start their careers in technical fields. Systers created the Pass-It-On Award program to do just that. The scholarship is completely funded by Systers, which is why the program has grown, and we are able to offer funds to women that need help with tuition, research or even for equipment to support a mentoring program for young girls. The commitment to women is strong, and our pledge is long-lasting. Making a global impact and changing world attitude about women in technical fields starts with local involvement, which is why the Pass-It-On awards are vital to extend our reach.