vGHC: Grace Hopper Celebration Goes Virtual in 2020

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The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is an annual conference that focuses on empowering and educating women in the field of computing. The conference, named after computing pioneer Admiral Grace Hopper, attracts nearly 20,000 female technologists each year and is the world’s largest gathering of women in tech.

Beginning in 2018, Colgate’s computer science department, career services, and the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement have been able to fully support upwards of 10 students to attend GHC. This year, due to the conference’s virtual nature, they were able to provide 25 student registrations. Featured speakers included tennis pro and philanthropist Serena Williams; entrepreneur, advocate, and U.S. Women’s National Soccer co-captain Megan Rapinoe; and Marian Croak of Google, among many other luminaries in tech. 

Professor Joel Sommers, department chair of computer science, has been a strong advocate for sending students to the conference. “The field of computing has had a diversity and inclusion problem for quite a long time,” said Sommers. “I think it’s critical that we as a department and as a University help to support students to attend GHC and other similar conferences as one way to address what is a pretty big and important issue facing the computing field.”

At GHC, students normally have the opportunity to attend sessions on various technical topics as well as professional development and personal growth. Students also have access to workshops, networking sessions, and interviewing opportunities for both internships and full-time jobs at the career fair. However, due to the virtual format of this year’s conference, many of these prominent aspects of GHC had to be changed. This included the cancellation of the career fair as well as moving most sessions to a pre-recorded format.

This was the second time Vani Kanoria ’22 attended GHC. “The virtual format definitely made the experience very different, especially since there was no career fair,” she said. “It was still great to learn from the different women who were presenting about their work and their journeys in the tech industry.” Vani attended a talk by Ishita Singh, head of search insights and data science at eBay, on her work and her journey in the data science industry.

Senior Allegra Knox was able to take advantage of the networking opportunities available at the event. “I did attend a ton of networking sessions, and I thought those were organized really well,” she recalled. “Most companies sent us to breakout rooms, and we were able to discuss applications one-on-one or in small groups.” 

As a first-time attendee of GHC, Ellie Humphreys ’24 was excited to participate in the conference. “I loved the opening Serena Williams talk about her life as a mother, athlete, and businesswoman,” said Ellie. “It was very inspiring, and I love her in general, so it was amazing to see her. This conference has made me proud to be a woman in STEM.”