Grace Hopper Celebration

Posted December 8, 2016 by Soniya Shah, Information Developer

Business Team Meeting Discussion Working Concept

This blog post was authored by Lisa Donaghue.

Every year, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing spotlights women in STEM fields. We’re thrilled to say that HPE was a corporate sponsor at the 16th annual GHC this year in Houston, Texas. 15,000 people attended. 14,000 of those attendees were women!

The crowd at the opening keynote

GHC is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. The number of women in STEM all along the pipeline, from undergraduates to professionals, is disproportionately low: women make up 48% of the United States workforce, yet in 2009 they held less than 25% of jobs in STEM fields.1 Meanwhile, according to the White House, there are “over half a million unfilled jobs in information technology across all sectors of the economy,”2 and that number could more than quadruple by 2018. GHC emphasizes that women are not only underrepresented in computer science, but also a huge and still largely untapped source of new perspectives – critical for an industry that thrives on innovation.

Four of us from Vertica got the opportunity to attend the conference–three days packed with keynotes, sessions, and meeting countless women in technology who are excited to contribute to the industry.

Lisa, Shreya, Shubhangi, and Qiong at GHC

The GHC expo allowed students to explore potential careers in STEM fields. It was also an opportunity for everyone at the conference to check out the numerous companies who attended and how they are committed to supporting women in tech.

The HPE Diversity & Inclusion team went all out on the HPE booth at the expo. They provided a green screen photo booth for visitors at the expo (we put ourselves on the red carpet). Throughout each day, HPE also presented a series of well-attended talks at the booth, covering a whole host of topics like getting the most out of your degree at HPE, personal brand-building in your career, database administration, and electrical engineering.

The HPE Booth at Grace Hopper

I admired the GHC’s commitment to addressing problems about inclusivity in tech from every angle, and at every point in the pipeline. The disproportionate lack of diversity in tech is due to a number of reasons, and fixing it demands a variety of approaches. The focus of sessions ranged from widely addressing implicit bias in academia, to supporting other women in professional settings, to working on personal strengths and achievement. Rather than defining “women” as a uniform monolith, there were sessions, meetings, and lunches that also directly addressed women of color, and LGBT people, who can face additional challenges as they enter the industry.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a technology conference without a wealth of sessions on the latest innovations in fields like AI, data science, gaming, and the Internet of Things. Shreya got the opportunity to attend an in-demand track presented by Google X about just what it takes to build a self-driving car, and the car itself was placed on display for attendees to get a first-hand look at.

It was exciting to see so many female voices participating in the exploding technology industry. Check out the Grace Hopper Celebration site, where you can watch some of their great 2016 keynotes from Latanya Sweeney, the first black woman to earn a computer science doctorate from MIT; Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM; and Megan Smith, the CTO of the United States.

Our efforts to promote inclusion and diversity in our field are supported by opportunities like attending the Grace Hopper Conference, and by the example set by women in leadership positions at Vertica. Nga Tran is one of the first Vertica engineers, credited on the C-Store3 paper that gave Vertica its start, and manager of the Query Engine team. Amy Miller is the head of our Customer Excellence team at Vertica, and a supporter of DataGals, our networking group for women in tech. Improving inclusion in tech can start with making women feel welcome in the industry. That can happen with leaders like Nga and Amy, who can serve as models for technical women who are early in their career. And it can happen with groups and conferences, just like Grace Hopper, that allow them to network and learn with other women who share their experiences.