ACM-W Connections – March, 2014

Welcome from the ACM-W Chair

— Valerie Barr, ACM-W Chair

Welcome to the third edition of ACM-W Connections! Thanks to a great team, and contributions from around the world, we are in our third month of this new communications vehicle. I hope you continue to find it a useful way to keep up-to-date with ACM-W activities, and enjoy the contributed articles.

The past month has been very busy for ACM-W, as you’ll see. I had the pleasure of attending womENcourage, the first ACM-W Europe Celebration of Women in Computing. You can read more detail about the event, but I thought it was a wonderful way to establish ACM-W’s presence in Europe. I expect that in April we will have a full report on the first Caribbean Celebration. And I look forward to reporting myself next month on the first Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS, http://www.csc.tntech.edu/wicys/) conference, being held April 11-12. There are over 300 women planning to attend!

Like our Facebook page for pointers to 5-7 new stories each week, gleaned from around the Web, https://www.facebook.com/women.acm.org. Thanks for your support.

News From ACM Chapters

One of ACM’s main strengths is its international membership. A message from a single ACM-W friend in India brought us over a hundred new ACM-W Chapters Facebook group members. Never underestimate the power of one person! If you have not joined the Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/201119703378118/), please send a request (to gct@depauw.edu), because the group is private.

Additionally, Thapar University ACM-W Student Chapter (India) became our 61st new ACM-W Student Chapter. ACM-W India is a powerful presence!

News From Our Contributors

The Working Mother Myth: Merging Parenting and Programming

The Working Mother Myth – Kathryn Rotondo questions whether returning to work after the birth of a child is necessarily the best choice for new moms’ careers in the long run. Read more here.

5 Ways she++ Encourages Women to Pursue Computer Science

Five Ways to Promote Tech to a New Generation – she++ Co-Directors, Rachel Mellon and Saguna Goel discuss ways she++ is working to break down gender stereotypes in tech. Read more here.

ACM-W Celebrations News

February and March have been active for the Celebrations project. There were two first-time celebrations. The first Caribbean Celebration of Women in Computing (CCWiC) was held in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, on February 26-27. WomENcourage, the first ACM-W Europe Celebration was held on March 1st in Manchester, UK. Several other celebrations also occurred recently including Australasia (AWiC), Carolinas (CWiC), Indiana (INWiC) and Northern Kentucky (TRIWiC). In this issue of ACM-W Connections you can also read about the women’s day at the annual ACM India event.

Many of the Celebrations coordinators were in attendance at our annual birds of a feather (BOF) gathering at SIGCSE 2014 in Atlanta. The BOF was standing room only, and it was great to hear about several of the celebrations.

If you are involved in organizing a celebration, watch for an email in April as we begin to wind down this academic year. Among other things we will need contact information for poster winners in order to award their scholarships to attend the Grace Hopper Conference in October. Finally, we will soon be rolling out some new features to the Celebrations web page. Details will be coming in April’s newsletter.

The ACM-W India Annual Flagship Event

The ACM-W India annual flagship event was held on 14th February 2014 at IIT Delhi Campus. The number of participants for the event was around 120.

Radia Perlman was the plenary speaker for the Women’s event. Radia is a software designer and network engineer, who is most famous for her invention of the spanning-tree protocol for operation of network bridges while working with Digital Equipment Corporation. In her talk entitled “People, protocols and Plexi-glass” she shared her experiences about being a female in a male-dominated group. Laced with humor, her talk asserted that the sole requirement to survive in the world of technology is knowledge, positive attitude, and self-confidence. According to her, women should learn to ignore the trivia. There is no need to blush or rush to protest whenever men curse and swear at work-place, maybe while trying to tame a piece of code to handle exceptions! Take it in your stride, she says. It is all in a day’s work! It is important to distinguish between personal insults and informal work-environments. While men can be allowed to be men, women also need not conform to the persona of being shy or coy or wear high-heels even if they are uncomfortable, she added. The key take-away – stereotypes should be shattered – be it of a woman in her own mind or in the minds of her male counterparts.

Ponnurangam Kumaraguru of IIIT Delhi and Laura Hass of IBM Research spoke about their work on Cyber-security and Big-data integration respectively. Ritu Anand, who handles HR at TCS, re-asserted the fact that women need to aspire more in order to succeed more often. While glass-ceilings have been broken, the sticky floor still holds back a large number of women from fulfilling their dreams. Several young women researchers and professionals had questions for Barbara Owens who made a presentation on Computing as a career for women. One of the most interesting and tough questions was from a research-scholar from IIIT Delhi – when one faces the moral dilemma of choosing between aspirations and ethics at the crossroads of a career, which one should a woman choose? The question stretched beyond ethics. It was also about personal commitments to parents, spouse or children versus career. Barbara’s answer was simple yet profound. Humans are not robots that can be pre-programmed to do this or that. It is for the woman to choose, but choice should be made with conviction, understanding of the future and not to regret whatever decision she takes.

The programme concluded with a panel discussion in which eminent faculties from IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur, JNU and National Law School, Delhi engaged to discuss “Sexual harassment at Workplace”. The aim was to encourage people to discuss uncomfortable and taboo topics that are usually swept under the carpet. There is a school of thought that news about such issues act as a deterrent for women. Yet another school of thought was that complaints such as these would make it tough for women to gain admission to corporate and educational institutions. The flip side could be that the “true gentlemen” – who had never violated the code of conduct in their lives – felt more threatened about their reputation. The panel discussion was about understanding the various statutes on this issue but, however, cautioned that laws to ensure safety of women should not back-fire on women themselves.

While the achievers proved that women have definitely made great strides, the questions and interactions also emphasized beyond doubt that much more needs to be done. Conflicts, within and outside, have to be resolved, through knowledge, discussions, and sharing of ideas. It was a unanimous acceptance that while individual achievements of women do deserve applause, it is also important for such achievers to be mentors and role-models for other women. Organizations like ACM-W, dedicated to celebrate, support and advocate for women professionals in computing, have a major role to play in encouraging more women to break the glass ceiling and rise to the top of their profession.

ACM-W Europe womenENcourage Celebration of Women in Computing

On March 1, 2013, we experienced the first ACM-W Europe womENcourage Celebration on Women in Computing (womencourage.acm.org), in Manchester, UK. Eva Navarro Lopez opened the conference of 240 participants, from 31 different countries with a moving welcome. Additionally ACM-W Europe, ACM-W, and ACM representatives, including Vicki Hanson, Mashhuda Glencross, Valerie Barr, Reyyan Ayfer, and George Eleftherakis, warmly welcomed the delegates. Valerie, ACM-W Chair, emphasized the importance of this event as a conference on women in computing and not of women in computing.

The day provided many networking opportunities for participants, and was filled with inspiring talks, panels and an unconference session. The 54 travel grant recipients are shown ready to be inspired by the events of the day.

Professor Dame Wendy Hall proved the importance of networks as she shared her life and career story in her talk “How to enjoy a career as a woman in computing: the power of networks”. Prof. Hall advised young researchers to “have the courage of their convictions”, and create networks that will support them throughout their career. Beryl Nelson (Google) led panelists Claire Vishik (Intel), Cornelia Boldyreff (University of Greenwich), Philip Su (Facebook), and Christine Flounders (Bloomberg) to answer questions about career opportunities.

All the panelists marked the importance of developing fundamental skills and getting rid of self-limiting beliefs. Then Technical talks by Carole Goble (University of Manchester) and Yasemin Altun (Google) were followed by “Unconferences”, during which the attendees assembled in small groups to discuss key issues suggested earlier in the day. The day ended with a lively panel session led by Lynda Hardman (IE), during which Jessa Lingel (Microsoft Research), Flora Ponjou-Tasse (University of Cambridge), and Luz Rello (Universitat Pompeau Fabra) shared their passion for changing the world. A world, where “we do not need to have women in computing events” (Valerie Barr), where men realize that “Women in computer science: It is not a women’s problem, it is a men’s problem” (Dame Wendy Hall).

Finally, next years co-chairs, Maria Andreina Francisco and Virginia Grande (both Uppsala University) announced womENcourage 2015 will take place in Uppsala, Sweden. Watch for further announcements. If you are interested in volunteering send an email to acm-w-europe@acm.org

The night prior to the celebration of women in computing approximately 200 participants met with the generous supporters of ACM-W womENcourage 2014. The travel grants were funded by: Google, Bloomberg, Intel, Microsoft Research, Facebook, Yahoo Labs and Cisco. Both the representatives of the companies and the attendees thought it was a great opportunity to meet and discuss the different career paths. ACM-W Europe thanks the supporters who made the womENcourage celebration of women in computing and Career Fair a success.

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