Thursday, March 27, 2008

It is not always the technical contribution that matters...

Enough has been said time and again whenever the topic of the first ever solely women Computer Science conference Grace Hopper came into discussion with most of my male friends. It is unfortunate but most of them find it difficult to digest the very idea of it.

I know it is strange. It is something which was not ever done before, and something which is like re-writing history for most women gatherings round the globe. When I attended the conference last year, it was a record with 1,400 women attending it - the largest women gathering in the world!

Let us move beyond facts and figures. Anybody reading this, irrespective of gender, would agree how minuscule is the women representation in engineering, coupled with the size of the women community in research. When I was in college, women representation was less than 15 % in Computer Science. This is really unfortunate, given the fact that population-wise men and women counts are almost comparable.

Most of you would say, women probably aren't smart enough. I won't repeat the cliched feminine dialogues. I agree women don't much have a technical bent of mind (of course there are many exceptions to this) - in fact, they are more creative in different ways. But as I stand being part of a really creative research community, I see that many women could make a lot of difference, because they are creative. Nevertheless, sadly, when I went to PerCom in 2007, I was the only woman speaker in the whole Workshop session!

Coming back to the point of Grace Hopper. This conference is a little different from others - its primary goal is not really making a technical contribution, rather it is a platform where in an aspiring woman struggling to find her unique identity in the society gets an opportunity to meet other aspiring women who think alike. It is also a great way to meet successful women - I got to meet the first woman Turing Award winner in the world when I went to the conference last year. And this wasn't the end. Meeting other successful women and learning their stories is a big moral support to many of us wanting to make a difference.

I am not saying let it be a all woman world - or similar things like woman dominated world. Any gender dominating the other seems strange and against the way the world evolved and Nature exists. Man and woman are two sides of the same coin - two inherent aspects of life. No one can exist without the other - this is as much true biologically as it is in every other mundane aspect of our lives and civilization.

I just wish to see something much lower down than this big picture - I want to see a research community luring both genders equally and a reasonable gender representation. And Grace Hopper is a wonderful means to feel encouraged. After all it made me really feel, "I Invent the Future."

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