The 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration took place on Wednesday, Oct. 4, through Friday, Oct. 6. The Grace Hopper Celebration is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, or ‘techies.’ It was produced by AnitaB.org and presented in partnership with ACM.
In the three-day event held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, women at various career stages gathered to listen to speakers, attend sessions, network, look for jobs, or just be reminded that even if they’re the only woman on their team at work, they’re definitely not the only woman in the industry.
More than 18,000 women were in attendance. Discussions were held on various topics, and the event had a highly resourceful panel of reputable speakers.
“I’ve seen [students] being spooked by the challenges ahead,” said Brenda Darden Wilkerson, who just this October took the reins as president and CEO of AnitaB.org. She wants to make it known: “We understand what you’re experiencing, and you’re not alone.”
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the keynote speaker for the event. She opened with a revealing speech Wednesday by talking about her first love, which she said “is not Bill’s favorite story.”
“Like most high school relationships, it was completely and totally all-consuming,” she said. “It started to change where I wanted to go to college, where I might live, how it was even thinking about my life.”
Her husband, Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates, takes issue with the story out of competitiveness but not romantic jealousy.
“The object of my affections was an Apple III computer,” Melinda Gates said.
Technology became a lifelong passion for Gates, who went on to study computer science and business in college and then take a serendipitous job at Microsoft. “It was an incredibly exciting time to be working in tech,” she said.
Other notable speakers were:
• Dr. Ayanna Howard – Professor and Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Endowed Chair, Bioengineering, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology.
• Dr. Fei-Fei Li – Professor and Director, Stanford University AI Lab; Chief Scientist, Google Cloud AI/ML
• Mary Spio – CEO and President, CEEK VR INC