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Code-a-Thon Concludes 11th Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson

"Science and technology work across language and culture in a special way," says Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson. "They are global disciplines that reach past nationalities and ethnicities."

Credit: Justin Jones / The Polytechnic

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology concluded this year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing with the Code-a-thon for Humanity, part of the conference's Open Source Day activities. Participants coded for humanitarian causes including Google Crisis Response, Kids on Computers, and Sahana Software Foundation.

The world's largest gathering of women in computing, the Grace Hopper Celebration is a four-day technical conference designed to bring together the research and career interests of women in computing and highlight their accomplishments across industry, academia and government. The conference, attended by a record-breaking 2,908 people, was held in Portland, OR, November 9-12, 2011.

Events Friday were highlighted by keynote speaker, Shirley Ann Jackson, president, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A theoretical physicist, Jackson was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the 1990s, and currently serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, appointed by President Obama in 2009.

Jackson's keynote, "What if I Lived on the World Stage?," addressed the importance of meeting today's challenges and opportunities with a global perspective: "We are fortunate to live in a time of interconnectedness, where communications and collective action are possible at an international level," Jackson said. "We have seen the consequence of this in terms of social and structural change in a number of countries recently. However, in thrusting people of different cultures together daily and rapidly, our smaller world also creates difficulties in achieving true understanding and consideration."

She continued, "Science and technology work across language and culture in a special way. They are global disciplines that reach past nationalities and ethnicities. Thanks to new technologies, we have the opportunity to work in a coordinated way as we face challenges that affect everyone on this planet."

High-ranking technology executives spoke on a plenary panel titled Partnering with Executive Leaders for Shared Vision and Career Growth. The plenary addressed how increasing women at executive levels can only be accomplished when men and women have frank and open conversations that bring together organizational and personal strengths, and map them to business goals and objectives.

Participants included:

  • Linda Apsley, Director of Program Management, Microsoft Corp.
  • Bill Laing, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Corp.
  • Betsy Speare, Principal Lead Program Manager, Microsoft Corp.
  • Gabriel M. Silberman, Senior Vice President and Director, CA Labs
  • Carrie E. Gates, Distinguished Engineer and Director of Research, CA Labs
  • Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College
  • Christine Alvarado, Associated Professor of Computer Science, Harvey Mudd College

The Award Ceremony featured technical women whose work has not only impacted the development of technology but also positively impacted the lives of women in technology:

  • Anita Borg Social Impact Award winner: Anne Ikiara, General Manager of NairoBits. This award is underwritten by Microsoft.
  • Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award winner: Mary Lou Soffa, the Owen R. Cheatham Professor and Department Chair of the Computer Science Department at the University of Virginia. This award is underwritten by Bloomberg.
  • Denice Denton Award winner: Tiffani Williams, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University. This award is underwritten by Microsoft.
  • Anita Borg Change Agent Award winners: Marita Cheng from Australia, founder of Robogals, a student-run organization that aims to increase female participation in engineering, science and technology; and Judith Owigar from Kenya, president of Akirachix, which gives African women a voice in science and technology. These awards are underwritten by Google Inc.
  • A. Richard Newton Educator Award winner: Lisa Pruitt, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California Berkeley. This award is underwritten by Alan Eustace.

Code-a-thon for Humanity

The conference concluded Saturday with Code-a-thon for Humanity, a collaboration of technologists who wrote code for OSS projects supporting humanitarian initiatives, including:

  • Google Crisis Response Team, which makes critical information more accessible around natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Google Person Finder provides an open platform for people to log queries and enter updates about missing persons.
  • The Haitian Women's Peer-to-Peer Network, a Nomadic Stories project that connects women who are off the communications grid by integrating mobile and open-source applications with ubiquitous technology such as community radio and local women's networks.
  • Humanitarian Open Street Map Team (HOT), which acts as a bridge between  traditional humanitarian responders and the OpenStreetMap Community. HOT works both remotely and physically in countries to assist the collection of geographic data, usage of that information and training others in OpenStreetMap.
  • Kids on Computers, which works to provide free computers and free and open source software to disadvantaged kids and schools open to the public.
  • Sahana Software Foundation, which provides information management solutions that enable organizations and communities to better prepare for and respond to disasters.
  •  Systers, the world's largest email community of technical women in computing, founded by Anita Borg in 1987. Today, Systers broadly promotes the interests of women in the computing and technology fields.

"The tremendous growth and impact of this year's Grace Hopper Celebration is nothing short of amazing," said Deanna Kosaraju, vice president of strategic initiatives, Anita Borg Institute. "Our attendees have come to expect new programs and opportunities for growth that will support them in their academic and professional endeavors. The Code-a-thon for Humanity is just one of many innovative initiatives we strive to deliver that not only facilitates learning for technical women, but also showcases the benefits of technology as it applies to our society."

The next Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD, October 3-6, 2012.


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