Friday, March 25, 2011

The Difference One Woman Can Make

I was at the Board of Advisers meeting for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI) last week in Mountain View when it struck me just how much of a difference one person can make.

Anita Borg, like so many others, saw the lack of women in computer science and decided to do something about it.  But she's among the relatively few who have been able to truly make a difference.  (That's not to say there aren't other amazing organizations doing good work, such as CRA-W and NCWIT.  I'm focusing on ABI because it's the one I know the best.)

It struck me how amazing this is when one of the board members, a professor of computer science, commented on just how much we have been able to influence our field.  Reflecting on just those initiatives I've been able to participate in, I can list quite a few that are directly related to ABI: Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Systers, ABI Ambassadors, and a wonderful online community of technical women.

Other male-dominated fields might have "women in X" workshops and other programs, but nothing like what we've got.  Change is happening in computer science, even if the pace is slow.

The biggest takeaway is this: It is possible to make a difference, even if all you have is yourself and a good idea.  You just have to get started, build a team, and find your allies.  And most importantly, never give up.

So what are you going to change?


Benevolentprof said...

I remember hearing Anita Borg speak when I was a grad student. She was so smart and candid. The biggest thing that I took away from her was that it was OK to talk about gender issues. She was successful and this stuff was still happening to her.

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