IST students and faculty 'build together' at Grace Hopper Celebration

Jessica Hallman
October 22, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “So much opportunity is out there, but it’s up to you to seize it.”

That was the main takeaway that Madison Borkovich said she got from her attendance at the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Held virtually this year from Sept. 26-29, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing connected 30,000 attendees from more around the world to learn, network and be inspired in working together to achieve intersectional gender and pay parity in tech.

A number of female students from the College of Information Sciences and Technology had the opportunity to attend.

“The top things I gained were knowledge of career and personal opportunities, confidence and contacts,” said Borkovich, a second-year Schreyer Honors Scholar who is pursuing a degree in human-centered design and development. “I will apply what I learned by harnessing the power, skills and tips, [as well as] the supportive environment, and use that knowledge and energy in practice to better myself and others.”

With a theme of #TOGETHERWEBUILD, the 2020 conference united women in the tech industry that displays a significant gender gap. Keynote speakers included Ellen Pao, a leading advocate for fairness in the industry; Marian Croak, vice president of site reliability engineering for ads, corporate engineering and YouTube at Google Inc.; 23-time Grand Slam winner and tennis icon Serena Williams; and Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team and two-time World Cup champion who is a vocal advocate for equality for all.

The keynotes talks, along with other speeches and opportunities to connect with other women throughout the conference, inspired those in attendance — including Hannah Kern, a sophomore studying human-centered design and development, who said they changed the way she views her future.

“Networking with female technologists is so influential in learning where I can go in the field,” said Kern. “These conversations give me personalized help, and it’s exciting to receive praise from people in the field.”

With the conference being held virtually, the College of IST was able to support an increased number of female students’ participation than in past years. And, for the first time, several members of the college’s faculty were provided with passes to attend.

Shomir Wilson, assistant professor of information sciences and technology, was one of the male faculty members in attendance. Wilson strives to be an inclusive teacher and adviser, and he was eager for the chance to learn in a venue dedicated to inclusivity.

“One of the panels I attended focused on intersectionality across race, gender and ability,” he said. “COVID-19 was on everyone’s minds. It was informative to see a discussion of systemic inequality in the context of the pandemic, which unevenly disrupts people’s lives and professional activities.”

He concluded, “The conference underscored the importance of involving women and nonbinary students in research … there are lots of different ways to make computing more inclusive, and it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

Last Updated October 23, 2020