Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mentoring, Encouraging and Celebrating at GHC 2010

It sounded very interesting to me when I first heard about the Grace Hopper Conference. After I reviewed the program book, it seemed apparently that I really need to be there, at least once.

Finally I arrived in Atlanta with four other Carleton students under the support of WISE . They are Gail and Terri from Computer Science, Bridget from Mathematics and Shruti who is my roommate from Innovation in Technology. The weather coordinated perfect in Atlanta for the conference, sunny and the temperature was always in the middle of twenties. And we couldn’t wait for the conference.

It turned out a great surprise to me and at the same time full of joy. I have never seen so many technical women (about 2100 people) coming to conference together in my whole life. Because I am an electrical engineer, every time I went to conferences I was always the minority. Although I never feel awkward in those circumstances, I still feel the big difference when so many women get together, talking about their ups and downs, mentoring and encouraging each other, and at the same time celebrating. Just like the keynote speaker Duy-Loan Le mentioned in her witty talk – now it is the time to let those men to feel what it is like when they are surrounded by so many women.

Before we came to the conference, the conference committee sent out a newsletter asking all the participants to introduce themselves to people sit around them and make new friends. So the overall atmosphere during the conference was very positive. Participants introduce themselves by either shaking hands or exchanging the Poken, which is pretty cool. Company staff standing besides their booth would tell you that they really, really want to meet with you, which made all the people laugh.

Every day I was very busy running between different sessions and the most important, never missed a keynote speech and plenary panel. Those women are all excellent role models and at the same time good speakers. Some of them are very straightforward and witty, others are deliberate and full of wisdom. But all of them showed us how wonderful their lives are, how proud they feel as the leaders in their own fields, and how grateful they are to their mentors and families. Many of the award winners were talking in tears especially those from academia. Then I saw a different picture in these amazing women, as intelligent and strong as men, as delicate and sensitive as ordinary human being. Gender is not an issue anymore in these occasions, instead I saw those beautiful minds coming across long journeys and sharing their struggles and happiness at the podium.