How would it feel like to enter a room filled with professionals and other students who think similarly to you? I feel this every day I enter a classroom at Mills. But what if this room was not filled with just thirty people, but over eight thousand? The electricity and excitement in the air would consume you to the point that you would begin to emit the same electricity.
That is how it felt this past week at the Grace Hopper Celebration for women in computing. Being surrounded by individuals who were interested in coding, solving problems and making the world a better place through the expansion of technology was a sight I thought I would never see, especially not as many as those who attended the conference. There were talks by women in high positions, such as President of Harvey Mudd College Maria Klawe and Arati Prabhakar, current director for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. These women are in male-dominated fields. There were also panels about things I have never heard of, and time was dedicated to networking with people from other parts of the country.
As a woman in the computer sciences, I once worked for a company that was involved in the network side of the field. The majority of the employees were male, and there were times when I felt like I was unwanted.
On the other hand, I enjoyed working, and for the most part, I didn’t feel unwanted or out-of-place all of the time. There were times were I would be ‘cat-called’ or told that I didn’t know what I was doing. Instead of making me feel sad and fearful, I felt anger, disgusted, but also empowered. It was times like these that made me feel like I should be working in the business, and just because I was a woman, it shouldn’t stop me.
This conference has rejuvenated my plans to work harder towards my dreams. It inspired one of my friends to work towards starting a recognized Computer Science club, dedicated to learning different types of coding and help others to grow stronger in their computing skills. Going to this conference has given me the belief that I can make a difference by using computers, which is something I love.
One of the quotes that I heard at the conference was “ask for forgiveness, not permission,” meaning to do something first and then apologize later than to keep asking to be able to do something you see right.