Monday, February 8, 2010

ACM-W India Launch Event, 21 Jan, 2010, Bangalore

There was an ACM-W meeting after the ACM India Launch event on Jan. 21st. Both Professor PJ Narayanan and Beryl Nelson from the Hyderabad ACM chapter were in attendance.

ACM-W is a committee that supports women in computing. Anyone can join the ACM-W interest list at this link.

A number of people spoke at this event, including Rick Rashid, VP or Research at Microsoft; Dame Wendy Hall, ACM President; Ms. Gayatri Buragohain, the new ACM-W India Ambassador; Ms. Kumudha Sridharan, VP of Testing Services at Wipro; Ms. Sridevi Sattaluri, working long distance for RTI International; and Profressor Sharat Chandra, Dept of CSE, at IIT Bombay. There was a lot of discussion during and after this event, often about the ways women can hold both family and work responsibilities, and reasons for differences in numbers of women and men at various stages of academic and professional life.

Some of the highlights:

Dame Wendy Hall introduced the evening, and started with a few women who have influenced computing, and influenced her. Ada August Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and the first programmer of Babbage's computing machine, and Grace Hopper, who was a Navy Admiral and one of the first programmers of the ENIAC, are people who resonate for me, as I worked on DEC's Ada compiler for many years, and I heard Grace Hopper speak in person at DEC. She also mentioned that in early computing, where much of the programming involved things like moving wires, the women who managed these connections were called "Computers".

Wendy also spoke about two of her own personal mentors, one of whom, Karen Spärk Jones, also showed her how to lead a large computing society, something that has come in useful now in her current position as President of the ACM. She also was a winner of the ACM-W Athena Lecturer award, an award supported by Google and given to women with significant achievements in computing. Unfortunately, she passed away before the formal award ceremony, but she recorded a speech for the ceremony. One of the things she addressed in her remarks is the question people often asked her: "Why do you put so much energy into mentoring women?" and her answer was, "Computing is too important to be left to men."

A final interesting point was that she showed some data about entry of students into Computer Science programs over time. There was a point when the number of entrants went down universally, but the enrollment of men recovered, and that of women never did. Wendy points out that this coincided with the marketing of the PC. Her theory is that the PC was marketed as a boy toy, and that women enrollments never have recovered from that. She also pointed out that Rick Rashid's video had no women in positions of scientist, only as dancers, something that she and Barbara immediately pointed out to him, but that he had not noticed. This, even though he is one of the sponsors of the Grace Hopper conference.

Ms. Gayatri Buragohain, Feminist Approach to Technology, has been appointed the ACM-W India Ambassador. She has an ambitious program in mind to encourage women in CS academics and research as well as in industry. She quoted the following statistics:
  • 2002:
    • Women in entry positions around 40%
    • Women form 21% of the work force in the Indian software industry
    • Decision makers are just 2-3%. (Nasscom)
  • 2008:
    • Women in entry positions around 40%
    • Women form 23% of the work force in the Indian software industry
    • Decision makers are just 3%. (Nasscom)

It was also mentioned that there is an effort in place to bring a regional Grace Hopper conference to India, probably in Bangalore late in 2010. As more information becomes available about activities of the ACM-W in India, we will post to the Hyderabad ACM mailing list.

If you are interested in attending or organizing ACM-W events in Hyderabad, please contact hyderabad-acm-officers googlegroups com

1 comment:

  1. Gayatri has also started a website, "We, Women in Technology", at

    Please feel free to check it out and to join the mailing list!