Starting an ACM-W Professional Chapter 

By Bettina Bair

On November 6, 2023, the Central Ohio ACM-W Professional Chapter was officially chartered by ACM’s Chief Operating Officer, becoming the third active ACM-W Professional Chapter in the United States. There are 16 active ACM-W Professional Chapters worldwide. Our chapter has close ties with the NW Ohio ACM-W, OCWiC ACM-W, and two ACM-W Student Chapters in Central Ohio.

All of us in the Central Ohio ACM-W Professional Chapter (nicknamed 614ACMW) are thrilled to be welcomed into the ACM-W global network of professional women in computing.  Since we just went through our chartering process, I thought I would share some of the strategies we found to be helpful. 

Would you like to start an ACM-W Professional Chapter?  Here’s how.

To start with, the requirements to start an ACM-W professional chapter are simple: 3 officers, 7 members, and contact information (chapter name, address, email, phone).  It does take some time, though, so we’re here to break it down into steps. 

Step 0. Develop a Value Statement.

When you are looking for officers and members, people will want to know why they should be involved.  And also, why ACM-W and not some other unaffiliated club?  It really helps to write down your value statement so that you can be confident and clear when you answer these questions. 

Amanda and I developed this list of ACM-W Professional Chapter benefits, and we share it at meetings. You can also use the list ACM published: Professional Chapter Resources and Benefits.

  • ACM-W advocates, supports, and celebrates women in computing.  Chapters provide an environment for members to make professional and social connections, learn about technology, get career advice, participate in mentoring, organize events, and provide community service. 
  • ACM-W is a globally respected professional association. There are hundreds of chapters worldwide with 70k+ members.
  • ACM-W Professional Chapters have access to ACM’s Distinguished Speaker list. ACM will cover the cost of sending any of these speakers to your chapter event. Chapters get free web hosting.  Professional Chapter members get access to many ACM publications with tech news, career announcements, conferences, and more.  ACM-W Chapters can connect with other chapters via the ACM-W Buddy project and ACM-W Celebrations.  ACM-W Professional Chapter members come from industry, non-profits, start-ups, and academia. 

You may develop additional benefits or member requirements for your chapter. Every local community is different.  As long as your priority is advocating, supporting, and celebrating women in computing, you are doing it right. 

Step 1. Find Officers. 

Since you will be the chair, you really only need to find two more people to be officers. You should look for people with leadership experience who are also friendly, responsive, and enthusiastic.  All your chapter officers need to be paying ACM members

Here are some places I looked for chapter officers: colleagues, best friends, co-authors, former ACM-W student chapter officers, ACM-W Celebration event sponsors, speakers, and organizers. I looked at hackathon programs and company organization charts. Ultimately, Facebook and LinkedIn proved to be the most useful. Using a filtered search, I was able to generate a list of women I knew who were working or living in my city. 

Amanda Kauppila and Bettina Bair

Very soon after, I made contact with Amanda Kauppila, who would become our chapter’s vice chair (Hi Amanda!). Amanda had been an officer of her ACM-W Student Chapter, so she was a perfect person to step into an officer position in an ACM-W Professional Chapter. 

Step 2. Recruit Members.

You need ten members in total. Your officers count as part of that minimum number. And your non-officer members do not need to be ACM members. ACM-W Professional Chapter members can be women, men, non-binary, academic, and industry technology professionals at all levels. You can be selective, but ACM-W encourages professional chapters to have diversity in their membership.  In particular, members should be from multiple employers and include academic as well as industry organizations

So, Amanda and I needed to find eight more members. To find interested people, you should organize a recruiting event. You can also contact people individually and invite them to become members, but a recruiting event can establish your chapter as a welcoming place.

Our first recruiting event was a tech talk headlined by a rockstar professor from Ohio State University, Dr Tanya Berger-Wolf.  Tanya is a popular speaker with cross-disciplinary research that touches on AI, big data, and biodiversity conservation.  (Hi Tanya!)

We reserved a meeting room at our local library and advertised the event on Meetup, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Again, LinkedIn proved to be the best media channel to connect with local women in computing.

After Tanya’s talk, Amanda and I did a presentation about our intention to create an ACM-W Professional Chapter.  Tanya volunteered to be our third officer, and we signed up four new members. 

Step 3. Build Critical Mass. 

After your first recruiting event, you may still not have enough members to apply for an ACM-W Professional Chapter charter. We didn’t.  But Amanda and I felt that the success of that first meeting – having Tanya sign up to be our Treasurer and getting four members – was a vote of confidence, and it motivated us to carry on. 

Amanda and I realized that we needed to build an online presence where we could show who we were and what our chapter was about. So we set about creating a website and social media groups where we could host more community-building activities. Amanda started talking to people about being speakers at future meetings. 

In effect, we started acting like we were already a chartered ACM-W Professional Chapter.  Believing in ourselves helped others believe in us. And slowly, one at a time, we added members. 

Step 4. Check on Details. 

When you have three officers and ten members, you are *almost* ready to submit your application for an ACM Professional Chapter charter.  Here are a few additional required details you should have handy. 

  • Chapter Name – Your chapter’s official name must be “City-name” ACM-W Professional Chapter unless the city-name is not unique.  There are 23 cities named Columbus in the U.S., so we were able to get an exception to call our chapter the “Central Ohio” ACM-W Professional Chapter.
  • Chapter Mailing Address – Your chapter can request promotional material from ACM, so you need to have a shipping address.
  • Chapter Email Address – This should be a unique email address, not the same as any ACM or ACM-W member. 
  • Chapter Phone Number – I’m not sure why this is needed, but it’s a required field. 
  • Chapter Type and SubType – “Professional” and “ACM-W”
  • Officer ACM Member IDs – The form will ask you for the member IDs, not the names.  You can’t look up the ID, so you should get it from your officers.  You will designate one person each for Chair, Vice-Chair, and Treasurer.
  • Email List Name – ACM will create two listservs for your chapter: one for officers and one for members.  You can make up your own name but it has to start with a letter, be 10 characters or less, and only alphanumeric, without spaces or periods. Dashes and underscores are permitted.
  • Member Names, Email, Affiliation – You need first name, last name, email, and affiliation (company). Or an ACM member ID.  You can enter these one at a time or upload a CSV file with this layout: Last Name, First Name, E-mail, Affiliation (not ACM). 

I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s really just a few small things that are very specific. 

5. Submit! And Next Steps.

When you click “Submit” on your ACM-W Professional Chapter application,  your chapter will begin its formal approval journey.  This is very exciting, and you should definitely celebrate.  Whatever happens next, you have done a great job assembling a small community of smart and motivated women in computing. 

Initially, you will get an email from the ACM local activities chair to let you know that the process has started and to advise you that there might be a one or two-week wait for a final decision on your application.  

At this point, I recommend that you reach out to the people who will approve your application, introduce yourself, and give them an opportunity to learn more about your chapter. Here are the people you should contact: – This person can help you fix any problems with your application and will also be able to ensure that your chapter gets the ACM resources that are available to you.

ACM-W Professional Chapter Chair  – all chapter applications are approved by the ACM-W Professional Chapter chair. Let her know that your group is applying for a charter and see if there are other chapters or activities happening in your area. 

Regional Chair – If your chapter is in India, Europe, or North America, it will be a part of a larger geographic regional group.  Contact the regional chair and let them know that you are interested in being a part of their community.

Pretty soon, you will get that special email from the Local Activities chair letting you know that your chapter has been welcomed as a member of the ACM-W global community of women in computing. 

What will your chapter do next?  Here are 101 ideas


Congratulations on taking the first step to starting your own ACM-W Professional Chapter! I hope this guide has been helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to the ACM-W staff.

I wish you all the best in your chapter’s journey!

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