Honoring Women in Technology: Bowdoin Delegation Attends Grace Hopper Celebration in Florida

A delegation of students, faculty and staff traveled to Orlando, Fla., to attend the world’s largest gathering of women in technology. The annual Grace Hopper Celebration took place October 4-6, 2017, when some 18,000 women came together to listen to keynote speakers, attend academic sessions, mentoring sessions and a large career fair.

The event is named after the pioneering computer scientist and programmer Grace Hopper, who went on to become a rear admiral—one of the few females to attain such a rank in the US Navy.

Associate Professor of Computer Science Laura Toma, her colleague Assistant Professor Sarah Harmon, and Vice President, Interim Co-Head for Information Technology Abbie Brown, were accompanied by thirteen students, most of them computer science majors.

Toma said the percentage of female CS majors at Bowdoin has increased in recent years from 15 to around 30 percent.

“We’ve been sending students to the Grace Hopper Celebration since 2009,” said Toma. “I believe it’s one of the most important things we can do to support women and other under-represented minorities, who want to make a career in computer science and technology.”

Cristina Tamay ’18 said her job interview skills improved dramatically at the conference. “I had about eight interviews and the first day I was very nervous and didn’t know how to present myself. Yet, by the second day of the conference I was a lot more confident in what I could offer as a woman in tech.”

Tamay said she was also encouraged to talk to other Latina women who had made successful careers in the technology field. “Seeing fellow Latinas going down the same path I am trying to go, is really inspiring and gave me an extra push to finish my major successfully.”

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Grace Mallet ’18 said her favorite moment was “receiving a job offer from ESPN in the security line. While it was exciting to get a job obviously,” she added, “I think the best part of that moment was the equal excitement from all the Bowdoin women around me. Everyone was so genuinely happy for me, and it was amazing to know that I had this support system of women who I really got to know so well in just three days who were rooting for me and my success from the start. I made so many connections.”

Paige O’Connor ’20 enjoyed attending a “really cool ‘mission crirical space flight’ software talk.” She also realized how many opportunities are out there. “I think as a computer science student, it would be impossible not to find a place to do meaningful work. My favorite moment was either going to the Google party and seeing my friends from last summer, or talking with a recruiter from a small London startup called Improbable; and realizing that I could work on something that cool one day.”

For Rachel Zafren ’18, the trip to Orlando was an “empowring and inspiring” experience. “It’s about giving smart women opportunties,” she said, “and it’s very exciting because the industry is starting to acknowledge the gender gap and take steps to combat it.” Zafren has more reason than most to be excited about the Grace Hopper Celebration: Within days of returning to Maine, she received a job offer from one of the companies she interviewed with at at the event.

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