WiCS at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration

Women technologists from around the world gathered in Houston, Texas to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration. Columbia’s Womxn in Computer Science (WiCS) share how it was to be part of the event that celebrates and promotes women in technology.

Xiao Lim

My favorite part about Grace Hopper was the raw experience of walking into the opening keynote and seeing over 20,000 women in tech. I think it’s easy to get bogged down by what we perceive as the status quo, but going to Grace Hopper reminded me that what is “normal” can and will always change. I can’t wait to see the future built by these women, and am proud to know that I am part of the change I want to see.

Lucille Sui

My favorite part about attending Grace Hopper was meeting so many amazing and inspirational women and also getting closer with the women I came with from Columbia! I learned a lot about the different paths in life that you can pursue with a computer science degree, from working on the Sims game to working on the tech enabled side of Home Depot. I would encourage everyone to attend this event because it’s an amazing way to meet other women in the field and understand the horizon of limitless potential you have as a woman in tech.

Kara Schechtman

Attending Grace Hopper is always such a meaningful experience as a woman in technology. It was my second time attending the conference, and both years I’ve been heartened to see the big crowds of women (and allies!) at the conference.

In addition to being in a woman-dominated space, it is really exciting to see that women are passionate about fixing many of tech’s problems; there were long lines for speakers like Joy Boulamwini who tackles bias in algorithms. For me, the most memorable experience was attending a talk given by Anita Hill the day after Christine Blasey-Ford’s hearing. Her words of advice to not give up on creating positive change were ones I really needed to hear that day. I hope I’ll be able to attend the conference for many years to come!

Madeline Wu

I had no idea what to expect from my first Grace Hopper experience, but was so glad I got to do it with fellow Barnard/Columbia seniors who also attended GHC through the WiCS sponsorship. Being at a conference with 25,000+ women in computer science is simultaneously inspiring and overwhelming, so I appreciated having other WiCS students to exchange tips with on the best giveaways, share what workshops we were attending, and to wish each other luck on interviews.

Some of my closest friends in college are fellow Barnard CS seniors who attended GHC with me, and throughout our three days in Houston we connected with women in tech from all backgrounds and interests, learned how to play poker with Palantir, enjoyed a mac and cheese themed Snapchat party, and tried all the Tex-Mex we could find. I went into this semester feeling a little burnt out, but seeing so many women in CS in one place and seeing how much companies are investing in women in tech re-motivated and inspired me to give everything my best effort senior year. Despite the giveaways and opportunities that GHC is most known for, I am most grateful that I got to experience GHC’s unparalleled sense of community with women who have been integral to my college journey!

Vivian Shen

I loved going to Grace Hopper because for once in my life, I was in an environment where womxn greatly outnumbered men at a giant, respected tech conference. As students, we try to carve out spaces for womxn in tech with our incredible clubs (Girls Who Code, Womxn in Computer Science, etc.), who hold various talks and gatherings and workshops. However, the experience is completely different when you are surrounded by thousands and thousands of womxn rather than just a handful, and these womxn come from all the corners of the globe to support each other in their technical pursuits. Not once during the week did I feel like I was talked down upon or “mansplained,” and it truly felt like every person I talked to, be it employer or peer, wanted me to succeed (and I wanted them to as well!). Sure, one of the biggest benefits of the Grace Hopper Conference is its giant career fair, where many students are able to find job offer(s).

However, I felt like the companies weren’t just there to find talented womxn engineers – they were also trying to prove that their company is inclusive and welcoming of diversity. It may seem strange to put it that way, but I believe that as these companies work to outdo each other in terms of inclusivity, they really do create better atmospheres for their workers. I’m more than happy to let companies show off all of their equity initiatives, especially when they are then receptive to feedback when we sometimes say that these initiatives aren’t doing enough.

At the conference, there were 50+ students from Columbia/Barnard, who all got sponsored in separate ways. I was lucky enough to receive a Microsoft scholarship out of the blue (I have had no prior connection with that company), so my main piece of advice to students who would like to attend GHC in the future is just to apply, apply, apply! Because it is such a renown conference, there are tons and tons of companies who offer sponsorship to those with a good enough reason to want to go, and filling out many applications increases your chances of getting funded by one of these. When it hits June, start looking for GHC scholarships on Google (I know it’s early, but trust me, you want to keep an eye on those things). Then, when you get in, I’m sure you’ll have a whole crowd of Barnumbia womxn (and peers from all over) who will be excited to attend and support you at the conference.