An interesting, interesting event.
The entire evening/morning was scheduled around panels (and meals), including a student (undergrad) panel, a career panel, and a bioinformatics panel. There was a speech and a single panel the first evening. The others were Saturday morning.
I always find myself in a sticky place at these types of events, in which a minority gets together to discuss the fact that they are a minority, which much of the conference felt like. Okay, so women are a minority in the computing field, and it ain’t getting any better (worse, in fact). Why are we sitting here finding all the differences between male and female coding methods, and the differences in management styles, and differences in job opportunities? If we are here to celebrate women in computing, then let’s avoid male-bashing, let’s avoid ostracizing, let’s avoid separating. Because I think we all know women can do that quite well. (Kidding, kidding. Sorta. Um, not really.) It’s not a matter of how (stereotypical) male programmers hate documentation, it’s a matter of the fact that yes, women do tend to bring more of that to the table. It’s a matter of semantics, yes, but it also puts a very different spin on the conference. I wasn’t the only one to feel uncomfortable with some of the questions posed to the panels on those topics, because a very cool grad student brought that point up, seconded by several of us.
There was also a bit of affirmative action rah-rahing (blatant “let’s take advantage of the system while it’s open and we have the advantage”–don’t forget blacks aren’t the only ones used to fill quotas) that made some of us squirm. Actually, that same grad student and myself, openly.
This was the first time a regional women in computing conference (modeled after the national-level Grace Hopper conference, apparently) has been held, so it was very much a pilot run. Some things could do with improvement (there were, of course, evaluation forms), but it was really a very fun conference, and it was a heady feeling to be pioneering (even if I can’t stand the head pioneer) regional, more affordable, more accessable discussions on some of the issues in computing for women.