Computing Profession

ACM-W: One Way to Support Women in Computing!

Valerie Barr

When you join ACM, or renew your membership, there’s a box on the form that you can click to join ACM-W.  But what exactly is ACM-W, what are we up to, and who should check that box?

The last question is really easy to answer.  Everyone should check that box.  At least everyone who supports women in computing (and I sure hope that’s everyone).  But knowing more about what ACM-W is and what we do might convince you.

Officially, ACM-W is the ACM Committee on Women.  Our mission is to support, celebrate, and advocate internationally for the full engagement of women in all aspects of the computing field.  Truthfully, I think our mission is to put ourselves out of business!  I look forward to the day when an organizations like ACM-W, NCWIT, CRA-W, ABI, etc., are no longer necessary. But we have a ways to go until that day arrives.

So, what does ACM-W do?  Lots!  Here’s information on our main activities, fleshed out with specifics from the 2012-2013 year:

  • Regional women in computing celebrations – 11 conferences in 2012-2013 in New Zealand, Canada (2), India, Chicago, Rocky Mountains, New Mexico, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky (community college focused), New York.  Total attendance of over 1,000 people.  Across the board sponsorship from Microsoft Research and ACM-W, additional sponsorship raised by each conference.
  • ACM-W chapters – 47 chapters at present (36 in US, plus Denmark, Turkey, Greece, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Kenya).
  • Scholarships for women CS students to attend research conferences.  In 2012-2013, we gave 28 awards based on 112 applications, going to undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D. students. In addition to funding from Wipro Ltd. and Microsoft, we have support from 18 SIGS in the form of complementary conference registration and a conference mentor.
  • Athena Lecturer award, which celebrates an outstanding woman researcher based on nominations from the SIGs.  The 2013 Athena Lecturer is Kathy Yelick, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and University of California, Berkeley.  She will speak at SuperComputing 2013.

Coming in 2013-2014: more regional conferences, with new ones in the works in Puerto Rico, Northern Virginia, and the first ACM-W Europe regional conference in Manchester, UK.  More ACM-W chapters, with efforts to develop professional chapters in addition to student chapters. More scholarships, with new support from Google.  Also coming out soon will be a revamped website and a new monthly email newsletter.

What can you do right now to support women in computing?

  1. head to and like us on Facebook.  It’s an easy way to find out about exciting work being done by women computer scientists, find out what various groups are going, find out about efforts with which you can get involved.
  2. make sure you check the ACM-W box when you join ACM or renew your membership.
  3. find the nearest regional women in computing celebration and join the organizing committee, attend the conference, bring people with you.

See you at a conference soon!

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