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Women In Comms

WiCipedia: Grace Hopper Promotes Diversity, Girl Scouts Code & How to Thrive

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Grace Hopper celebrates diversity; Girl Scouts are more than Thin Mint machines; how to thrive; and more.


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  • The 16th annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference made headlines this week for its emphasis on diversity. CIO reports that the conference, hosted by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), expected record numbers of attendees, and that "30 percent of keynote and plenary speakers are women of color." The opening keynote, "Women and the Future of Tech," focused on increasing the number of women working in "cutting-edge" technology, such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. (You can watch the keynote here!) Inc. wrote more about Grace Hopper's legacy in tech as one of the first programmers. "Hopper was to computing what Henry Ford was to the production of automobiles," stated Sharon Wienbar, CEO of Hackbright Academy. A role model like Hopper, who passed away in 1992 but whose memory shines bright, is sure to inspire the next generation of STEM entrepreneurs and leaders. (See Grace Hopper: Power to the Pipeline .)

  • We've been hearing a lot about salary transparency these days -- are women and minorities making as much as white men? Well, we all know the answer to that, but exactly how bad is it? In October 2013, Tracy Chou, an ex-Pinterest engineer, was on a mission to find out the actual numbers that made up employee demographics in Silicon Valley, especially in terms of ethnicity. So she did the research herself, BackChannel reports. Data from 50 companies filtered through to Chou in just her first week of collecting data, and three years later, that number is up to 250. Her discovery, that the number of women and minority employees at major tech companies was shockingly low, was a kick in the pants to the bosses of companies to analyze their margins and increase diversity across the board. Three years in, Chou has witnessed the numbers slowly inching their way up, but very few drastic changes have happened. Now part of Project Include, Chou helps companies expand their employee base to become better, if not quite equal. (See WiCipedia: Big Names Band Together & #NoWomanEver .)

    Break It Down
    Here's the current racial breakdown of nine tech major companies.  (Source: BackChannel)
    Here's the current racial breakdown of nine tech major companies.
    (Source: BackChannel)

  • When we think of the Girl Scouts organization, images of sharing, cookie sales and hand holding in a circle come to mind, but what about coding? The popular childhood group is coming into the technological age as Interim CEO Sylvia Acevedo, who is also a former rocket scientist and the White House commissioner on the presidential initiative for Hispanic educational excellence, pledges to teach girls how to code. A story from CNBC tells how Acevedo became interested in STEM herself, and how she plans to guide the next generation of girls into tech. The organization is reportedly already providing activities for girls such as "making robots, creating lava volcanoes and building mechanical prosthetic arms," so coding is a natural next step. Acevedo points out that many current leaders in business started out as Girl Scouts, including "Hillary Clinton, 15 of the 20 women in the U.S. Senate and five of the six female U.S. governors." The organization also recently moved cookie sales online, which trains a new generation of girls to be online entrepreneurs, a skill that will definitely come in handy in whatever career path they choose to pursue. (See WiC Poll: Start Young to Improve the Pipeline.)

  • What's the best way to succeed as the lone woman in the office? "Don't be bugged," offers a Fortune article titled "How to Thrive if You're a Woman in Tech." Carine Clark, president and CEO of MaritzCX, advises that as a woman in tech, there will be many instances that will have you feeling frustrated and alienated, but the best thing that you can do to cope is to not internalize. Clark professes that gaining the technical skills women need to succeed and capitalizing on uniqueness, not an ability to blend in, will pave a way for women to triumph in the tech space. "By seeing the world as welcoming, you will increase your power and success in a male-dominated industry. Don't be bugged, but instead work to change perceptions one person at a time." Then again, you could always just work for one of the companies that CNBC lists as the best places for women to work and hopefully not be bugged to begin with! (See From Ass Kickings in China to Kicking Ass in the Valley and AT&T's Chiosi: Born to Stand Out.)

  • Need a little levity after a hard week of fighting for gender equality and pay parity? "South of Market: The Musical" may just be what you're looking for. The San Francisco Examiner reports that the production, which is only showing this weekend, is a parody of high-tech workers in SF's SOMA neighborhood. It covers a range of topics that will feel familiar to anyone in the tech world, from the pressure to make it big to raising capital to -- you guessed it -- being a woman in a male-dominated field. Though this particular production is specifically about the perils of being San Franciscan -- complete with real tech workers from local companies -- the show is sure to resonate with anyone who has worked in tech, or been surrounded by it. (See WiCipedia: Big Leagues & Small Screens Take On Gender Parity.)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading

  • KBode 10/31/2016 | 1:20:43 PM
    Re: Incremental change So where is the disconnect on this? Is it in early education? Are we driving young women away from traditional technology areas of study while laboring under gender norms?
    kq4ym 10/30/2016 | 10:50:07 AM
    Re: Incremental change It's still amazing to me that "the number of women and minority employees at major tech companies was shockingly low," as reported by the recent study. Just why this still exists and what can be done to progress the fairness issue would seem to be something that must be addressed more seriously by the industry.
    Mitch Wagner 10/21/2016 | 8:26:48 PM
    Re: Incremental change Particularly when it comes to upper management and the C-suite, it just takes time for people -- men or women -- to work their way up the ranks. Getting more women and minorities to go into STEM careers when they're fresh out of college will lead to more women and minority STEM CEOs in a quarter-century. 
    Kelsey Ziser 10/21/2016 | 4:43:48 PM
    Re: Girl Scouts to Grace Hopper @Sarah It is really encouraging to hear that the Girl Scouts organization wants to teach girls to code and to foster an interest in tech. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to learn about prosthetics as a girl! I did do Girls in Science as a kid - programs like that and Girl Scouts are so important to showing girls that they can be successful in science. 
    ErynLeavens 10/21/2016 | 2:03:27 PM
    Re: Incremental change Mitch, there's a quote in that BackChannel article that speaks to what you just said. It's somehow a little surprising to hear from someone who is fighting so hard for change:

    "I think that the scenario of some dramatic change where somehow the overall industry percentage jumps 5 percent in one year is highly unlikely," says Elizabeth Ames, a senior vice president at the Anita Borg Institute, which runs the annual Grace Hopper Celebration. "I think you just have to do the math to realize that is probably not in the cards." She acknowledges that the dearth of candidates will make dramatic change difficult for years to come: "It didn't happen overnight that we went from 37 percent to 18 percent [of women graduating with computer science degrees], and it's not going to happen overnight to go back there."
    Mitch Wagner 10/21/2016 | 1:36:31 PM
    Incremental change It's discouraging that the number of women and minorities at tech companies are only inching up slowly, rather than rising meteorically. But lasting social change tends to be incremental. We didn't go from Jim Crow to an African-American president overnight. 
    Sarah Thomas 10/21/2016 | 10:24:26 AM
    Girl Scouts to Grace Hopper I am bummed to miss Grace Hopper this year. It was such an inspiring show last year, from the number of female computer scientists in attendance to the content of the panels and keynotes. Very cool event.

    Also, it's great to see the Girl Scouts becoming such an exciting organization with real, relevant opportunities for girls. The Boy Scouts has always seemed like a stronger organization with the abiility to earn an Eagle Scout and learn skills that are applicable and impressive today, but the Girls Scouts seemed to fall short when I was younger. So, I'm happy to see that changing.
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