Published March 23, 2023

Bowdoin students attend global gathering of women in computing

On September 20th, 2022, twenty members of the Bowdoin computer science community traversed the East Coast to arrive in Orlando, Florida. There, they joined the ranks of thousands at the world’s largest assembly of women technologists: the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

The Bowdoin contingency, which included eighteen student members of the Bowdoin Women in Computer Science (BWiCS) club and two professors, spent the next three days in a space dedicated to the celebration and furtherment of women in technology-related fields.

The Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) was established in 1994 to honor the legacy of pioneering mathematician and computer scientist, the late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. This year was the first in the conference’s history to be offered in hybrid format, after both the 2020 and 2021 conferences were held entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students who had attended GHC virtually in previous years emphasized the value of attending the conference in-person. The ability to “speak directly to so many women from all different backgrounds and of all different ages in tech” is the essence of the GHC experience, noted one student.

Another student explained that attending in-person fostered a greater sense of community because she “was able to connect with people in unexpected places (on the shuttle or just walking around).” It was these interactions that students found to be the most meaningful parts of the trip.

Bowdoin’s presence at the conference was made possible through funding from the Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs as well as a generous Kuriyan travel grant, which together paid for attendee’s travel expenses, hotel stays, admission to the conference, and meals throughout. Students expressed deep gratitude for the ability to attend, which one described as “priceless.”

 After a three-day whirlwind of workshops, lectures, networking events, and 1-on-1 meetings with company representatives, students returned to campus three days later with some important takeaways.

“Overall, I left Grace Hopper feeling a stronger sense of belonging, more experienced, and more confident,” said one student. Other students discovered new career pathways and interests at Grace Hopper, which “expanded [their] impression of what is possible.”

Groggily unloading luggage in the middle of the night on the final day, students all agreed: GHC was worth the trip. In the future, it is the students’ hope that “every female/nonbinary student is somehow able to attend,” with many already looking forward to next year’s conference.