From September 20 to 23, faculty and students from Bowdoin Women in Computer Science (BWiCS) attended the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) in Orlando, Fla.. GHC is an annual conference celebrating women and non-binary individuals in technology with a specific focus on early career support and exploration for college students from around the world.
The conference was organized by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Grace Hopper, the conference’s namesake, was a technological revolutionary and one of the first women to attain a doctorate degree in mathematics. The opportunity for Bowdoin students to attend was made possible by alumni donations to the BWiCS.
Professor and Chair of Computer Science Laura Toma reflected on the conference and its unique mission.
“This is incredibly important for the development of computer science as a department because currently, only 25 percent of participants in computer science programs and degrees are women,” Toma said.
The GHC’s mission is to grow this number exponentially. With more than 20,000 attendees, the conference creates opportunities for connection between students and members of various technological fields.
Sophie Lipset ’24, a math and computer science double major, attended the GHC and expressed gratitude to the conference for helping to demystify her career path.
“[The conference] gave me a clearer idea of what field I want to go into,” Lipset said. “I also learned that the process of getting into tech is very difficult, but going to the conference made it a little less scary.”
mes a new panel of speakers—both from the tech world and beyond—who are sources of empowerment for young women and non-binary individuals. This year’s conference hosted panelists including Megan Rapinoe, member of the US National Women’s Soccer Team and New York Times best-selling author; Dr. Anita Hill, chair of the Hollywood Commission and professor of law at Brandeis University; and Frances Haugen, data scientist and Facebook malpractice whistleblower. Toma was especially touched by the words of Haugen.
“[Haugen was] mind-blowing and inspiring … her message was that ‘we can [create] change,” Toma said.
Toma shared how the conference affirmed her identity—often overlooked in a male-dominated field.
“We can change the future—the time is now,” Toma said. “The GHC reaffirmed my mission to advocate for more computer science resources here at Bowdoin.”
Lipset talked about the conference’s ability to foster a culture of empowerment among gender minorities in technology.
“I ended up being very inspired by everything around me, and speaking to women in many different fields solidified that I want to work in tech,” Lipset said. “The fact that it was mostly women [at the conference] made it so easy to talk to people. You could walk up to someone in line and start a conversation with anybody.”
Abby Mueller ’24, majoring in computer science alongside Lipset, echoed this feeling of affirmation and hopes to recreate it among her peers.
“Attending the conference with such a great group of women from Bowdoin inspired me to want to get to know Bowdoin women in computer science better,” Mueller said.
Students interested in attending the GHC in the future can sign up for the conference at AnitaB.org in July, and they can apply for scholarships starting in March. Bowdoin provides funding when needed for those not granted scholarships.
Emma Kilbride contributed to this report.