This week I attended the Rocky Mountain Celebration of Women in Computing (RMCWIC). It was amazing. I have not felt this excited about my job and computing in a long time. Since I graduated and left my cs bff Brenda, I had forgotten what it was like to be surrounded with other women in computing. Thursday night I got home around 11 and was so excited I barely slept. By the end of the day Friday my excitement had grown and I had all this excited buzzing energy around my heart. My heart screamed I do love computer science and it is the right career for me!
Why did this day and half conference have such a big impact? The little doubtful voice in the back of my head vanished! The voice that said “speaking up will just make you stand out more.” The voice that said “you don’t want to sound dumb, that would just further prove that women shouldn’t be in computer science.” The voice that I normally have to suppress. The voice that is always nagging. The voice that never seems to shut up was finally quiet.
In college I was of the opinion that women focused organizations and conferences increased the divide between men and women in computing. Isn’t this just reverse segregation?! Our differences are going to be amplified! As a woman I wanted to fit in, I didn’t want to be different and to standout. It wasn’t until I took a Feminist Philosophy class my senior year and the professor pointed out that instead of women trying to be more like men, we need to equally value masculine and feminine traits that I began to question my viewpoint.
After 6 years working in industry I have to say that this type of conference is the most valuable conference for any woman interested in computing to attend. If you think you are the only one feeling like an outsider, questioning if you belong, questioning if you are good enough, you’re not alone! The experiences were indispensable: knowing that the voice in my head can disappear, knowing that other women share my experiences, knowing that I am very good at my job.
In addition to attending this conference I had the opportunity to lead a Birds of the Feather talk with my fellow female developer on the product team at Telvent Fort Collins, Devi Sadhu. The title of our session was “Women in Computing: Break Stereotypes and Be YOU!” Prior to the conference we did a significant amount of research on why there are historically low numbers of women in computing, the consequences, why diversity is important, and the changes we can implement. During the talk we asked the audience to brainstorm answers and solutions. Look for a summary of the group’s feedback in an upcoming post. (It was remarkably close to the research!) The opportunity to facilitate this discussion, the diverse women and men who participated, and the insightful comments of the all in the audience were inspiring. I am grateful to all who attended our session.
In conclusion, I want to truly thank all the organizers of the conference for creating such an inviting and encouraging environment at the conference. I am inspired by all I met the conference.