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Grace Hopper 2010 – Mirage and Oasis

5 October 2010

Last week I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing held in Atlanta.  As you might expect, the attendees are predominantly women, and roughly half are current students.  I noted to several of my fellow faculty members that the experience was something like seeing a mirage.  Many of us with interest in computing education would like to see many more women among our students.  The number of students in computing majors remains far to low to meet the projected demand for computing graduates.  And current representation of women in computing majors is dismal. Given that women represent roughly 50% of the population, they are by far the largest under-represented group among our majors.  So if computing were more successful in attracting women as majors, the potential to really solve the overall shortage in majors is excellent.  But thus far, this goal has been elusive.

Seeing so many women students in one place is refreshing and a sharp contrast to the everyday experience in our classes.  A bit like a mirage in that we don’t have that sort of concentration of women computing students at any one institution.  But also a bit like an oasis because the gathering was a very concrete reminder that a substantial population of women in computing does exist.

Another bright spot in the conference was a chance to catch up with some of the people who share my interest in having students participate in communities that develop open source software.  The picture below shows a gathering of old friends and new sharing ideas for Teaching Open Source over lunch.  My thanks to Mel Chua of Red Hat for supporting our gathering!

Teaching Open Source Lunch

FOSS friends: Leslie Hawthorn, Deb Nicholson, Greg Hislop, Heidi Ellis, Anita Verno, and Bill Madden

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