Spotlight on ACM-W Professional Chapters

ACM-W Professional Chapters give you a local voice for change with the backing of an international organization.  Professional chapters work with student chapters and industry leaders to advocate for equity and diversity in the tech industry. Our chapters around the world organize conferences, hack-a-thons, fundraisers, lecture series, community service, and networking events that gather together local students and IT professionals. Learn about these activities through two interviews with ACM-W Chapters who have offered to share their experiences.

Interview with Bonja Milasinovic, Belgrade ACM-W Professional Chapter

Why did you decide to form an ACM-W Professional Chapter?

Thanks to Reyyan Ayfer we found out about ACM and the opportunities for local communities.  Because we were already dealing with the topic of women in tech on local level, forming ACM-W chapter opened a new door to us. Through chapter we could connect more people from local community to ACM activities. 

When did you get your chapter charter?

It was in 2016. after the conference Women in Tech held in Brussels. 

What projects are you working on?

Enter: ACM-W Celebration of Women in Computing is a two-day conference held in Belgrade. We have held this student-centered conference twice with about 500 attendees per event. We are planning to continue with similar events, focusing more on practical work than on classic lectures.  A hands-on approach seems to be more popular and useful to participants, so we would love to continue our work in that direction. 

Photo: Belgrade ACM-W Professional Chapter Committee.
Photo: Enter: ACM-W Celebration of Women in Computing Conference.

What connections do you have with students?

We are in contact with several different student groups. Most of our programs are designed for them so we are trying to meet their needs by helping them on their way through professional challenges. 

What benefits do the members of your chapter gain?

We try to connect members with other IT people (especially successful women from local IT community) so they can build a strong social network.  Additionally, members can learn from women in the local IT community through different workshops about soft skills and technical skills. We also keep members informed about all ACM-W benefits.  Most importantly, we listen to the problems they are facing in the professional world and note the skills they need and create programs to help them to adjust. 

 Photo: Hands on activities with local professionals.

Where do you see your chapter in five years from now?

We hope that at some point we can pass the chapter activities to some young and motivated people who will be willing to carry on with the activities and fresh new ideas.

What suggestions or feedback for any groups looking to start their own chapter?

Go for it! 🙂 It can be very useful experience, leading you to the great people and great output of all successfully done activities. 

Interview with Panagiota Fatourou, Greek ACM-W Professional Chapter

Why did you decide to form an ACM-W Professional Chapter?

Our motivation to form an ACM-W Professional Chapter in Greece stems from the need to enhance and advocate gender balance in computer-related scientific fields and professional sectors in Greece.

Based on 2014 Eurostat data, women are strongly under-represented in computer-related studies in most European countries, including Greece. Specifically, 80% or more of the students enrolled in computer-related study programs are men. Unfortunately, this trend seems to be persistent as these statistics have not been observed to improve the last several years. In parallel, Greece (and Europe) under-utilize women scientists in research and innovation, as well as in leadership positions, while women’s participation in the digital labour market decreases with age (the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon).

Action is necessary to discover, understand, and defeat the glass ceilings with the goal of addressing any form of gender imbalance in scientific leadership and decision-making processes, and ensuring a fair development of outstanding career paths with no barriers and misconceptions for both men and women in the digital sector. The Greek ACM-W Chapter aims at contributing in this direction by promoting gender-equal access to computer-related scientific frontiers, encouraging and educating women and men in an equal way to achieve their professional goals and utilize their potential in digital professions, and celebrating and disseminating the achievements of computer professionals, women and men, in a fair and gender-equal way.

When did you get your chapter charter?

The Greek ACM-W was chartered on July 2, 2018.

Photo: Greet ACM-W Professional Chapter committee chairs: Georgia Koutrika (Treasurer), Panagiota Fatourou (Chair), Maria Roussou (Vice Chair)

What strengths does your chapter have?

The main strength of the Greek ACM-W Chapter is its member base. Our founding members number more than 40 women covering diverse domains of computer science and engineering. Our members work primarily in academia and research institutions from all over Greece and abroad; however, Chapter membership working in the computing industry is also increasing. The Chapter’s overall member base has exceeded 190 individuals of all genders, in less than two years since its establishment (including most women professors working at Computer Science (CS) related Departments in all Greek Universities).

Can you tell me a little more about what projects you have been working on?

Photo: Founding and new members of the Greek ACM-W Chapter.

In the almost two years of its operation, the Greek ACM-W has succeeded in mobilizing a considerable number of women and men to become members of the chapter; establishing its online web and social media presence; and organizing events.

The Greek ACM-W chapter’s website (https://acmw-gr.acm.org) was launched in the first few months after the establishment of the chapter. The website aims to maintain a dynamic nature; it is being systematically updated with news regarding our activities and our members as well as resources, especially relevant reports and papers (https://acmw-gr.acm.org/index.php/en/resources/reports-papers). We have also created a YouTube (https://tinyurl.com/y2hresdk) and Flickr (https://tinyurl.com/ybrl3mfq) channels for storing more audiovisual resources. Most notably, our YouTube channel includes video documentation of all of the talks and sessions of our major event. In parallel, we update our Twitter https://twitter.com/GreekAcm and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8721327/) spaces with the help of student volunteer members of our chapter.

Our first major event was the 1st Summit on Gender Equality in Computing, on June 7, 2019 in Athens, Greece. The GEC 2019 brought together students, researchers and professionals in the field of Computer Science. It was attended by 121 participants, of whom almost half were students. The program featured a) four keynote talks, b) a poster track including a flash talks session, c) several industry talks, d) a career development track, and e) a panel of women with distinctions and women in senior technical positions. Participants were inspired by the talks and activities that took place during the Summit, and enjoyed the offered opportunities for networking and sharing experiences. See https://tinyurl.com/y7w54urk and  https://gec19.athenarc.gr/.

We are also in the process of establishing the following working groups, and collecting our members expressions of interest, indicating in which groups they would like to participate and contribute to:

  • Celebrations and Events   
  • Networking and Connecting   
  • Raising Awareness and Dissemination
  • Sponsoring Programme   
  • Computer Science and Education prior to the University    
  • Support during the University Studies    
  • Mentoring and Role Models Program
  • Assessment and Evaluation   

Following the big success of GEC 2019, we are currently organizing the 2nd Summit on Gender Equality in Computing, which will take place on June 12, 2020, as an online event (due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

We also plan to carry out a variety of mentoring initiatives and Summer Schools, as well as a seminar series focusing on gender equality issues in education, research and innovation.

Finally, we hope to formalize our chapter’s procedures, e.g. management structures for the different working groups, and chapter events so that these can be streamlined and sustainable across the different leadership boards that will assume responsibilities in the future.

Photo: Prof. Geraldine Fitzpatrick during her keynote speech at the GEC 2019 Summit in Athens, June 7, 2019.
Photo: Snapshots from the poster session and flash talks at the GEC 2019 Summit in Athens, June 7, 2019.

What connections do you have with university students? What activities do you do?

A large number of our members are academics and, through this network, the Chapter has a strong connection with university students. In the planning of our first event, the GEC 2019, we ensured that students would be active participants and thus held a poster session especially for students and young researchers. Through a peer-reviewed process, 35 abstracts were selected and presented via flash talks and a dedicated poster session.

The Chapter has established a working group especially for supporting University students and will continue in this direction. Another working group is devoted on providing mentoring and coming up with a pool of role models.

What connections do you have with K-12 students? What activities do you do?

The Chapter has so far participated in the 1st Summer School in Computer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (WiSTEM ’19), organized for high-school students in Heraklion, Crete, and with a presentation in “Youthtopia”, a non-formal youth group’s event for the International Day for Women in Science.

The Chapter has established a working group for K-12 and activities will pick up its action in the near future as we plan for summer schools and other activities for the K-12 target group.

What involvement do you have with local ACM events, chapters and initiatives?

As a Chapter, we collaborate with other local chapters, such as the ACM-W Student Chapter AUTH, with which we co-organised an event in Thessaloniki and the Greek ACM SIGCHI Professional chapter, as well as other ACM initiatives (e.g. with presentations at the ACM Summer Schools on Data Science 2018, 2019).

At a broader, regional and international scale, members of our Chapter are actively engaged with womENcourage and participate in Committees of ACM-Women Europe. Most notably, a members’ team poster was among the ten best posters (out of more than 70) selected at womENcourage 2019.

Photo: Maria Roussou (Vice Chair) presenting the Greek ACM-W Chapter at the ACM Summer School on Data Science 2019.

What professional, social, support benefits are gained for the members of your chapter?

The Greek ACM-W Chapter aims to create a community in Greece and has succeeded so far in providing networking opportunities to its members.

Our members can gain awareness about the CS-related issues through our newsletters, our website news, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We have been very active in informing our members about initiatives and events in Greece and abroad. We provide access to scientific papers, studies and other resources on our website, all talks given at the GEC 2019 are available on our YouTube channel.

Furthermore, our members’ achievements are promoted through our website and social media channels.

Where do you see your chapter in five years from now?

We aspire to continue expanding our member base, so that five years from now, the Greek ACM-W Chapter will have established a critical mass or active and engaged members, and a presence that can truly make an impact. We hope that the various working groups will have gained ground to organize their own activities, and contribute to a decentralization of the Chapter’s activities in order to spread impact across different parts of Greece.

What suggestions do you have for groups looking to start their own chapter?

Our 22 months of experience since establishing the ACM-W Chapter have highlighted the importance of motivation and transparency. Our suggestions, in a nutshell, include:

  • to be clear about your vision and goals from the outset,
  • to convene a small but active team that will work together as a core team to realize the vision and goals,
  • to become familiar with all the resources that are out there and are available through ACM, and to leverage these resources,
  • to be prepared for a lot of hard but very rewarding work!

Supporting, Celebrating, and Advocating for Women in Computing

We recognize the work of our ACM-W professional chapters and are grateful for the work they do to ensure women thrive in the tech industry:

  • ACM-W UK Chapter
  • Ankara ACM-W Chapter
  • Azerbaijan ACM-W Chapter
  • Belgrade ACM-W Chapter
  • Cyprus ACM-W Chapter
  • Delhi ACM-W Chapter
  • Greek ACM-W Chapter
  • Northwest Ohio ACM-W Chapter
  • Inhambane ACM-W Chapter
  • Jamshoro ACM-W Chapter
  • OCWiC ACM-W Chapter
  • Pune ACM-W Chapter
  • Tallinn ACM-W Chapter
  • Windhoek ACM-W Chapter

We also welcome our newest chapters and are excited to see what they will do:

  • Chennai ACM-W Chapter
  • Hibernia ACM-W Chapter
  • Kharkiv Information & Communication Technologies ACM-W Chapter
  • Trondheim ACM-W Chapter

Won’t you consider starting an ACM-W Professional Chapter near you?  See the ACM-W website for more information: https://women.acm.org/acm-w-professional-chapters/

Not ready to start a chapter but want to get involved?  ACM-W is looking for people to help support the professional chapters. If you have a few hours a month to donate to a worthy cause, please contact Rachelle Kristof Hippler (rhippler@bw.edu) to find out how you can help.