It’s a rarity in life to be able to gather with others who share a common cause, and be inspired for almost every minute of every day together. To do so with 12,000 people over 3 days is unheard of. Except when it comes to the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
It was fun to watch people walking in, and then Dr. Telle Whitney and Hillary Mason seemed to flip on a switch and you could see the inspiration in the eyes of the students, business leaders and industry pioneers alike. Everyone in the building had a real feeling that we can change the world. That diversity, particularly in technology, is our biggest asset. We all know that technology is going to change lives, and the call to action from industry leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, CTO of Facebook; Megan Smith, White House Chief Technology Officer, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, Hillary Mason, Fast Forward Labs CEO; Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation - to a host of researchers and industry veterans all did their part to inspire everyone in attendance.
Attendees started arriving in Houston on Tuesday - Ada Lovelace Day - and ran through a closing celebration party at Minute Maid Field on Friday night.
Technology is a part of our world. It’s hard to capture in words the inspiration that was painted on the faces and obvious in the eyes of this week’s GHC attendees.
These women will shape our future and provide inspiration to the women and men - the future innovators - who will come after them.
Gandhi said, “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
It’s incumbent on leaders today to recognize the power that is GHC. The value of diverse teams is steeped in research, proven in history, and evidenced in the marketplace.
For me, the lasting image of this year’s conference is of the face of a ~20 year old student riveted to the inspiring words of Anita Borg founder Telle Whitney proposing to her audience that “you can create real change” - and seeing that young woman’s eyes light up with inspiration.
And thank you for reading this far - as a man attending this conference (for the third time - previous experiences captured here and here), I was clearly inspired by the set of speakers – and also impressed by growth in the number of attendees and the quality of the speakers – inspirational leaders and steeped academics. However, as many pointed out throughout the week, the challenges remain and progress has not been as great as it could be.
I came away thinking more about how I could personally contribute and actively work with my peers to help move things forward. It was also great to be able to connect and talk with other men who attended and realize how many people are working on creating inclusive cultures at companies – big and small – all around the world.
Call to Action
Look in the mirror and be open and willing to change
We all have unconscious biases- be open to learn from others. Explore Project Implicit https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/
Take initiative to experience being the minority and what it feels like to be excluded
Everyone is different, and it’s easy to find differences between us, and what these can make a team great, they can also be negative - seek out your own differences and role play what it would be like if your unique trait was not included. “Guys with no hair can’t speak until Thursday”, or “we will solicit feedback from everyone with brown eyes.” “If you’re wearing a something yellow today, you will be part of our leadership team.” How would you approach decision-,makers in these cases?
Sign up for next year's Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference
GHC is an incredible resource for women in tech. It’s an incredible education for men in technology. Everyone should attend. Book early, it sells out fast.
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The Grace Hopper conference is powerful and incredibly motivating – and reminds us all why we need to work to have more women in technology.
Here are a few tweets that capture the spirit: