It’s no secret that there’s a significant gender imbalance in technology and trading. Presently the global gender gap in STEM stands at 47%, with 30% of all male students graduating from STEM subjects, compared to 16% of all female students (read the weforum.org article here). The figure drops drastically for computer science and software engineering degrees.
If workplaces want to be truly progressive, they need to do what they can to counter this trend. Diversity in the workplace (from talent to gender, race and experience) has been proven to be better for productivity, morale and the bottom line. More than that, it’s the right thing to do. Which is why we were excited to send eight talented young women to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing - the world's largest gathering of women technologists. Our 2017 scholarship winners were joined by IMC software engineer Lauren. In recognition of International Women's Day, we wanted to share a little of what they took from GHC17, along with some sound advice to young women in tech:
"As I took my seat on my flight to Orlando, I noticed that the girl next to me was wearing a t-shirt from last year's Grace Hopper Conference. Then I looked around: ninety percent of the people on board were women, many sporting t-shirts and backpacks riddled with the logos of tech companies and universities. It was difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea that I could be surrounded by so many women going to a single place with a shared purpose: to learn and to share their passions in technology.
That sense of incredulity, of amazement and wonder, was the theme of my experience at the Conference. I'd never attended a conference of such large scale (over 18,000 people!) where women were the majority. From listening to keynote speakers and attending sessions, I've learned about ways we can use technology for positive impact that I'd never considered before. Beyond the technical talks, I've become more cognisant of the various manifestations of biases in the technology, and have learned about how we can take steps towards ameliorating this bias. Overall, I was amazed by the strong community of women that I have in technology -- a community that I've always had, but perhaps never realised before. Attending GHC17 was truly an inspiring experience, and I left Orlando with more confidence and energy, as well as a drive improve to our collective experience in technology, to change the world". Evania - Computer Science and Statistics
"During the conference, I got a chance to participate in Open Source Day. Before that, I'd never worked on any sort of open source project - what a great introduction to just how much I can do! It was so fulfilling to spend some of my time working on an app to help educate young girls about menstruation, reproductive health, and puberty. I had so much fun meeting new people and getting the chance to nerd out about amazing things; it was an extraordinary experience. The Conference gave me inspiration, great memories, and more motivation to work toward my goals as a woman in technology". Jackie - Computer Science
I once heard a female panellist say that passion is a side effect of mastery. I think passion is also a side effect of tenacity. And once you’re passionate about a project, the exuded enthusiasm which follows will help to convince others of your commitment and talent. Varsha - Computer Science and Statistics
"As a Computer Science and Math major, I've grown accustomed to being one of the only girls in the room. While I've never let this hold me back, I've also never lost the sense that I was an outlier and needed to put in additional effort just to prove that I belonged. At Grace Hopper, surrounded by 18,000 women who all had the same interests as me - and probably very similar experiences to mine - I finally felt like I belonged in the field of Computer Science. Moreover, I was reminded of all the reasons I fell in love with it in the first place, as I was inspired by the challenging and important problems being solved by so many influential women". Delia - Computer Science and Math
"Something that was brought to my attention during Grace Hopper was that, in general, I never truly notice that the people I see and hear about in tech are always men - it's the norm. The thought didn't occur to me until I was sitting in the first opening keynote, surrounded by almost 18,000 women in computing from all walks of life, in awe of the sheer number of us, because ... where had all these women been? In my experiences in school and especially in the workplace, surrounded by male engineers, it never felt like there were so many other women doing the same thing as me. So seeing all of these people and hearing from the brilliant women taking the main stage one after another was empowering, to say the least". Nancy - Computer Science
"Never let go of your bravery. While failure is inevitable, what you can control is what you fail at. Fail at something that you love, not something you settle for, and get back up after those failures." Evania - Computer Science and Statistics
"This was my first time attending Grace Hopper and it was just as exciting as I hoped. Unsurprisingly, one of the most amazing experiences was the rare and invigourating feeling of being surrounded by women at a technical conference - it made it so easy to talk about female-focused issues in technology. The best part about the talks and panels I attended was that they weren't just about exposing female-specific struggles, but also about how to manage them. Specific problems that women might face, such as societal pressures to have and care for children and unequal pay, were presented as surmountable problems. There was no suggestion of inevitability - just talk about past experiences and some ideas for solutions. While that was an important aspect of GHC17, the whole conference wasn't just about the issues women face in technology. If it had been, that would have missed the crucial point of the celebration, which is that women are doing amazing things because we're just as capable as men. While there were so many good panels about the struggles faced by women, there were also research talks and poster sessions. This allowed for a true showcase of the stunning talent of women in technology". Lauren - IMC Software Engineer, PhD Computer Science
Ignore what other people think you should be doing and do what you want to do. The amazing thing about technology is that it is all about innovation and creation. It's the best idea that wins, not the best person. Leah - Chemical Engineering and Computer Science