On the plane to Houston I overheard two college women behind me:
“You’re going to Hopper? Me too!”
Over the next two hours they shared stories that became deeper and deeper: how one just landed a job, how exhausted they were from the workload, their family backgrounds and what drove them to pursue computer science. When we stood up to leave the plane I introduced myself as a fellow Hopper, and suddenly every woman around us piped up, “me too!”
That instant connection is the heart of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. It’s hard to capture the optimism and sheer exuberance of being surrounded by 15,000 women technologists.
Ginni Rometty Keynote
IBMers arrived early to gather at the front of the Toyota arena to support our CEO, who delivered a personal keynote that looked at the history of computing alongside her personal history as a woman in technology. She described her mother’s determination as a single mother to not let anyone else define you. She also shared a moment when she hesitated to take on more leadership, learning that growth and comfort never co-exist. Finally, she challenged us to work on something bigger than ourselves, such as Watson’s Health’s potential to aid in cancer treatment. Yesterday IBM announced a key new partnership with Quest Diagnostics to deliver genome sequencing for precision cancer treatments.
Check out Ginni Rometty’s keynote at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing for yourself.
Latanya Sweeney Keynote
The notion of technology solving the world’s biggest problems resonated throughout the first day of Hopper 2016, with Latanya Sweeney’s keynote on how technology can partner with public policy to improve lives. As a Professor of Government and Technology in Residence at Harvard University, Latanya works with the government on issues surrounding data privacy and security. While she didn’t want to claim responsibility for HIPAA, Latanya works with students on critical projects to reduce online fraud and discrimination. One example she gave was racial bias in online ads. Companies associate certain names with racial groups when displaying ads, as she discovered when Googling her own name and seeing a misleading ad for arrest records as the top result.
Anita Borg Institute, which brings us the Grace Hopper Celebration, performs another key function in advancing women in technology. They provide an index of top companies which provides a solid data foundation for companies’ relative performance and looks at how overall the industry is performing.
The good news is that we are seeing improvement. Overall representation of women in technology has increased to 21.7%, up 1% in the past year. The bad news is that women are still not making much traction in the upper echelon of technology companies – the glass ceiling is still very real.
To help break this pattern, ABI compares Top Companies and names
the “Leadership Index” to recognize those companies in the fore-front of advancing women technologists. I’m very proud that IBM is in this categories of leaders. But the Top Company award-winner blew away the competition, as you can see from this chart. ThoughtWorks, a global technology services company, hired a whopping 59.6% women in entry level positions.
ABI found that the top factors for hiring and retaining women in technology are:
- Flexible time and work location, with remote work options
- Leadership training and mentoring for women
- Gender diversity training
ThoughtWorks acceptance speech stressed that they focus on diversity not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for business. They spoke of the future of technology development where “the people that design and build products look like the people that use them.”
Supported by those around you and those that came before
Anita Borg institute also announced two award winners today who described how their careers depend on having female role models and mentors.
Alyssia M Jovellanos, winner of the ABIE Student of Vision award, described how seeing one woman in tech (her brother’s girlfriend) changed the course of her career and set her on an amazing path to create computer programming courses for young students.
And the recipient of the Technical Leadership award, Anna Patterson of Google, showed her grandmother’s poll tax record of when she first voted, and urged us all to exercise our hard-earned right to vote. She pointed out that we are supported by those around us and those that came before, and all of our current work sets the stage for future advances from young women just starting their careers.
I ended my first day at dining with a young woman working in IBM research on hardware to help Watson’s learning. She’s working on a chip to improve Watson’s memory.
Imagine the possibility for improving the human experience coming from the amazing minds at this conference! I’m humbled by the talent around me and energized for my session coming up on Friday on building developer ecosystems — with an eye to those ecosystems solving the most challenging problems facing humanity.