I attended the Grace Hopper conference for the first time this year, and it was an incredibly inspiring four days for me. You can find more extensive notes on the sessions on the conference wiki, and the #ghc10 Tweet stream has some real gems in it. While the sessions were insightful and incredibly useful, I most appreciated the conference for the opportunity to network with such a large and diverse group of technical women. More than 2,500 people attended the conference, approximately 900 of them students, and I have never been to an event where so many members of the audience were women of color. For those of us in the Open Source community, we need to take a page from the conference organizers on how to increase all kinds of diversity amongst the attendees of our gatherings.
The Open Source Track was a resounding success. Sessions averaged more than 50 attendees and in several sessions, such as the Open Source for Good panel, we had a completely packed house. I was particularly excited about the opportunity to speak to so many women one on one at the Free and Open Source Software Projects exhibit booth.
The Open Source Codeathon for Humanity allowed several women the chance to come together and create software for the Sahana project. Terri Oda’s photo essay on the Codeathon is incredible – check it out! Many thanks and kudos to the several Sahana community members who came to share their knowledge with all of us. A huge thanks to the National Security Agency for sponsoring the Codeathon and Open Source Track. Their support not only allowed us to share our passion for Open Source, but to simply introduce many women to it: what it is, why it’s important and how Open Source can be a great force for positive social change and technological innovation.
I also want to give my thanks to the many women who made the Open Source track possible by speaking, exhibiting and organizing activities, and especially the Open Source program committee. I’d also like to give yet another shout out to my colleagues who helped make the Getting Started in Free and Open Source panel a reality: Selena Deckelmann, Greg Hislop, Deborah Nicholson, Terri Oda and Pinar Yanardag.
While there were many excellent sessions at the conference, I have to say the Keynote presentations were simply stunning. In the conference newcomer’s guide, they tell you not to miss the keynotes, no matter what, and they’re right. While I thoroughly enjoyed each Keynote I attended, I have to give a special mention of Carol Bartz’s address. I have never seen a speaker be so authentic and candid with her audience, and Carol’s advice to all of us was excellent.
Carol urged us to remember our responsibility to take charge of our own careers. To paraphrase, it’s not our boss’ responsibility – “he’s concerned with his own career.” It’s not our friends’ responsibility – they have their own agendas and needs. It’s not our family’s responsibility – they have their own ideas of what will make us happy and successful. And she reminded each of us, to thunderous applause, that “sometimes, you just have to be a bioatch.”
If you’re a woman in technical computing and you haven’t attended Grace Hopper, that’s a bug you have to fix. The conference will be coming to Portland, Oregon, USA next year, providing an amazing opportunity for you to enjoy both Grace Hopper and the vibrant technical community in Portland. I can’t wait.
Thanks to Gail Carmichael and Terri Oda for the fantastic photos used in this post. Gail’s photo of Carol Bartz is used with her permission, and Terri’s images are available under a Creative Commons License. The coverted restroom photo is my own and you are welcome to use it.