Eighteen University Women Attend Conference for Women in Computing



Caroline Hroncich

Eighteen female Villanova students attended the 14th annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. Oct. 8-10. The Grace Hopper celebration is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. It is both a networking and educational experience for attendees, who all have a background in the science field. The Villanova women attendees study a variety of topics, including computer science, mathematics, management information systems and information systems. 

“As a freshman, this was my first time attending the Grace Hopper Conference,” said Kaitlyn Pellicano, a Villanova student.  “Attending the conference opened my eyes to the wide array of opportunities to explore in technology, both in my own studies and research as well as career possibilities for the future. I never could have imagined having such an amazing opportunity to learn and network as a freshman. It was amazing to see such a great number of women in technology come together for a few days to share knowledge and build networks.” 

The Grace Hopper Conference was co-founded in 1994 by Anita Borg and Telle Whitney, both prominent female computer scientists. The conference was founded on the legacy of Grace Murray Hopper, a United States Navy admiral and computer scientist. Each year, the conference draws nearly 5,000 women from across the world to network with others working in technology, in addition to industry leaders from companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Goldman Sachs. 

The conference provides attendees with the chance to participate in unique workshops and meet industry professionals. Some of the workshop themes ranges from career advice and graduate school, to gender diversity and video games. 

This year, the two-day conference began Oct. 8 with keynote speaker Shafi Goldwasser, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the end of the first day, there was a career fair that provided a variety of networking opportunities for women interested in pursuing a career in technology. 

“Grace Hopper really helped me to advance professionally as there were many workshops about working in industry, academia and even start ups,” said Indigo Brunson, a junior computer science major. “There were many inspiring talks by successful women. My favorite part however, was the Career fair. One-hundred plus companies attended and I even scored a few interviews for summer internships. It really showed me that companies are working towards gender equality.” 

The second day, Thursday, Oct. 9, began with a conversation between Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, and Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College. The day continued with workshops, and ended with a screening of “Girl Rising,” a documentary film about the obstacles girls in developing countries must overcome in order to obtain an education. 

Susan Leighton, a rising junior in the media and technology BIS Major, said that she particularly enjoyed listening to the speakers. 

“I enjoyed meeting Megan Smith, listening to Satya Nadella, and the talk by Yoky Matsuoka was absolutely terrific,” Leighton said. The talk with Rayid Ghani resonated with my desire to use computer science to assist with political campaigns and to change public policy. Later in the conference I had the opportunity to speak with a woman who developed an out of the box software program for political campaigns and I knew that I had found an area that is of interest to me.” 

The weekend concluded Oct. 10, with a speech by Arati Prabhakar, the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and a Wearable Technology Fashion show, displaying aesthetically pleasing and technologically advanced fashion items. 

The Grace Hopper Celebration provided females working in the computer science field with diverse educational and networking opportunities. Jasmine Serano, a junior computer science major, said that her experience at Grace Hopper reaffirmed her enthusiasm for computer science. 

“I truly found this conference to be inspiring and it provided me with more enthusiasm for my career,”Serano said. “Having the ability to network and speak with other women in this field was amazing. It was a great experience to have attended the Black Women in Computing reception because I had the opportunity to share similar experiences about being a black woman in the computer science field.  Being able to meet so many amazing people, network and learn about different career paths within computer science made me realize that this is a field that I want to be in. I definitely am looking forward to attending the conference next year.” 

Founded on the idea that women’s research and career interests in technology should be “brought to the forefront,” The Grace Hopper Conference, according to Pellicano, allowed her to build her confidence and think about what she would like to pursue post graduation. 

“Attending the Grace Hopper Conference was an amazing experience,” she said. “More than a few times I found myself stepping back for a moment in amazement at how lucky I am to be a part of such a powerful community.”