Later this week the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference kicks off in Baltimore, Maryland. The event is focused on bringing the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. This year's theme is “Are We There Yet?” and no doubt will focus on the international decline in the numbers of women majoring in computer science and a stubbornly persistent gender gap in information technology employment.
Microsoft is involved in a wide range of programs aimed at trying to reverse these trends and attract, recruit, retain and develop women from around the world in the field of computer technology and is a big supporter of the conference – in fact we’ve been a sponsor for the past 6 year's and this year one of a number of platinum sponsors as well as sponsor of 20 Grace Hopper Scholarships to enable those who cannot afford to attend to enjoy be present.
Given the conference attracts over 3000 attendees I’m impressed with how many Softies will be present – over 160 Microsoft technical women, researchers and executives will attend, present, debate, celebrate and recruit. It’s testament to our focus on ensuring the diversity of our workforce is representative of the diversity of our customers and ensures we’re employing the smartest minds on the planet to tackle the big bold goals we set ourselves as a company.
In fact, over the last two years NEXT has played host to a number of these amazing female mind and this week will profile a few more. Rane Johnson-Stempson and Jennifer Tour Chayes will both be at the conference and just this week I was talking with Rochelle Benavides, Sheridan Martin Small and Kiki Wolfkill about how they’re driving forward the world of interactive entertainment at Microsoft.
Everywhere I look there are smart women at Microsoft doing amazing work and there is a continued focus on building the diversity of our workforce. We’re also engaged with over 20 leading national and international women’s organizations to coordinate efforts that encourage women to enter and advance in the field of computing. A four-year, $1 million commitment to support the National Center for Women and Information Technology is one part of that effort.
Our DigiGirlz program aims to expose high school girls to the high-tech work world. Girls are also encouraged to participate in Microsoft’s high school summer internship program in Redmond and through such programs as IGNITE in Seattle and SciTechGirls in Europe. There is also a flourishing Women at Microsoft Facebook page and an abundance of programs and research supported by Microsoft Research to develop the role of women in computing.
It’ll be interesting to hear the outcomes of the conference and you should expect to see more profiles here on NEXT this week and over the coming months.