About the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing 2015

On Monday, December 21, 2015, Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC) ran their second talk in a series of online Tech Talks around various technology topics targeting their global membership. The talk was about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) 2015, which was held between October 24 and October 26, 2015 in Houston, Texas. The talk was organized, managed and hosted by Ghida Ibrahim, ArabWIC VP of programs with the help of Alaa Shaheen from ArabWIC Mentoring committee.

The talk mainly aimed at spreading knowledge about the history and impact of the GHC, at shedding light on ArabWIC involvement and participation in this conference and, finally, at sharing guidelines about the participation to this conference for all ArabWIC membership who wish to be part of it in the future.

The history and impact of the GHC:

Jody Mahoney, Senior Vice president of business development at the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), gave the audience a brief overview about the GHC. Motivated by a clear lack of women’s presence in the computing field, the GHC was founded by Dr. Anita Borg and  Dr.Telle Whitney in the 1990s. Considered today as the largest gathering for women technologists worldwide, the GHC has attracted around 12000 women technologists in 2015 compared to around 500 at its launch in 1994. Attendees, including students, scientists, industry professionals and entrepreneurs coming from over 65 countries, had the opportunity to hear from around 700  outstanding speakers and to attend over 200 sessions. Dr. Kaouthar El Maghraoui, ArabWIC co-chair and Research Scientist at IBM, highlighted that GHC 2015 was characterized by a particularly rich set of tracks covering topics such as data science, the Internet of Things, machine learning, software development, user/computer interface, Open Source technologies and career development. GHC 2015 also had an exceptional set of speakers including US technology officer Megan Smith, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Carnegie Mellon professor Manuela M. Veloso and Fast Forward Labs CEO Hilary Mason.
Initially occurring every 3 years, the high success of the GHC has contributed to it becoming a yearly event and to its expansion to new territories such as India where the first local GHC happened in 2010. GHC is expected to continue its expansion to Africa and to the Arab world in 2017 in addition to the global GHC happening in the US each year. GHC 2016 will happen in Houston, Texas in October 2016 and is expected to attract around 15000 attendees.

ArabWIC participation and involvement in the GHC:

Prof. Sana Odeh, ArabWIC founder and computer science professor at NYU and NYUAD, explained that, as an official chapter of ABI, ArabWIC has been actively participating to the GHC since 2012. In particular, 6 to 7 ArabWIC members and leaders have received scholarships from the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) in order to attend the GHC during 2014 and 2015, respectively. GHC 2015 also featured an ArabWIC reception and a panel session on global leadership  moderated by Prof. Odeh. ArabWIC co-chair, Dr. Kaouthar El Maghraoui, was the program co-chair for GHC 2015 and has been selected as the general co-chair for GHC 2016.
ArabWIC members and leaders attending the GHC benefit from a huge opportunity to get inspired and build connections with women leaders in the computing field. During the talk, we heard from five ArabWIC leaders about their feedback after attending GHC 2015.Houda Chakiri, Founder and CEO of the Morocco-based Enhanced Technologies, told us that, after attending GHC 2015, she organized hours of code in order to introduce children in her community to science and computing. Alaa Shaheen, Software Engineer at  Progineer Technologies in Palestine, said that GHC 2015 has inspired her to always learn new things and to give back to the community. This inspiration was shared by Fatima Djoudjou, Software Engineer and Dr. Manar Abu Talib, Professor at University of Sharjah in the UAE, who said that the GHC encouraged her to dream big and to be a messenger of her field to the community. Yasmin Alnoamy, PhD candidate at Old Dominion University, stressed that computer literacy, including the knowledge of how algorithms and the internet work, is nowadays a must for everyone including children.  As a frequent attendee of the GHC, she said that the impressive evolution of the conference over the last years was a incentive for her to take initiatives, start now and always aim high. Yasmin wrote an elaborated blog about GHC 2015 which you can find here.
ArabWIC aims at increasing its participation in the GHC in the coming years and at taking the leadership in the organization of the first GHC in the Arab world  in Morocco in July 2017. Dr. El Maghraoui mentioned the call for papers and for scholarships applications for GHC 2016 will open end of January and will last till end of March. Dr. El Maghraoui and Prof. Odeh highlighted that the  ArabWIC leadership will put tremendous efforts in order to allow more of ArabWIC leaders to attend GHC 2016.

ArabWIC Reception at GHC 2015

Guidelines about attending GHC:

There is no single formula for attending the GHC. Mrs. Mahoney highlighted that a call for GHC scholarships is opened each year by ABI and that GHC scholarships applications follow a strict review process involving three reviewers. Applicants are selected based on their achievements but also on their leadership potential. Prof. Odeh mentioned that QCRI has provided full scholarships to some of ArabWIC members and leaders in the past three years and that, even though the selection process is different from ABI, the selection criteria remain quite similar. Both GHC and QCRI scholarships cover all expenses including conference registration, lodging, food and airfare. Prof. Odeh equally mentioned that many companies and universities including Google, Cisco and NYU provide sponsorship to their female employees or students in order to attend the GHC. She urged ArabWIC members to investigate sponsorship opportunities within their local organizations. Dr. El Maghraoui advised interested audience to follow  ArabWIC media channels on Facebook and Linkedin and ArabWIC website in order to be aware of scholarships openings and to be better informed about the application process.

At the end of the talk, the ArabWIC leadership promised to organize a dedicated webinar when the call for scholarships for GHC is open in order to assist interested ArabWIC membership in preparing their applications. In the meantime, you can view the slides presented during the tech talk here and watch the recorded video here.

Ghida Ibrahim,