Commentary & Perspectives

GHC 16: Reflecting Our Community’s Diversity

With GHC just around the corner, we are busy making final preparations for the three-day conference and are excited about our community connecting with some of the best minds in computing.

Last year, members of our community raised concerns about the diversity of speakers at GHC on the main stage as well as in the other sessions. This year we set out to be more intentional about having a diverse set of speakers by focusing on the following key areas:

  • A commitment to inclusion – Traditionally we have three keynote speakers at GHC so to ensure our keynote speakers are diverse we set a goal that at least one of the three, or 30%, would be a woman of color.  With that as our target we decided to see if we could carry that target over to all of the main stage and plenary stage speakers.
  • Change the mindset – We asked the conference co-chairs and track co-chairs to consider how to make GHC a diverse and broadly representative conference as they selected technical speakers.
  • Know the Data – We challenge our partner companies to define and measure their representation of women in the technical workforce, and we wanted to take a similar approach to identify where there was room for improvement in our own conference. As a part of the Call for Participation, we asked everyone who submitted a panel to identify how their panel was diverse and to consider diversity in the composition of their panel, and based on the recommendations of the community, we asked speakers to voluntarily identify their race and ethnicity.

GHC 16 Speakers

We are excited to say that we achieved our target of 30% of our keynote and plenary speakers being women of color.  Some of the amazing speakers include:

Dr. Latanya Sweeney – Wednesday morning keynote speaker. Dr. Sweeney is currently the Professor of Government and Technology in Residence at Harvard University and the former Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Dr. Sweeney not only has 3 patents and 100 academic publications, but her work is explicitly cited in two U.S. regulations, including the U.S. federal medical privacy regulation (known as HIPAA). She earned her Ph.D. in computer science from MIT in 2001 and was the first black woman to do so.

Ana Pinczuk – Wednesday morning emcee.  Ana is EVP and Chief Product Officer at Veritas. In this role, she is responsible for driving a $2.5 billion products organization, including the Veritas Information Availability, Information Management, Backup and Recovery and Appliances portfolios.

Alyssia Jovellanos – Wednesday morning speaker.  Alyssia Jovellanos is a Computer Science student and undergraduate teaching assistant at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. She is the 2016 Student of Vision ABIE award winner.

Kathryn Finney – ABIE Award Winner and Managing Director of digitalundivided (DID), whose mission is to foster economic growth and empowerment in communities through training and supporting Black and Latina women entrepreneurs for social impact.

Bih Janet Shufor Fofang – ABIE Award Winner and professor of electrical engineering for 15 years at the College D’enseignement Technique Industriel et Commercial and developer of the STEM box and STEM Your School program that encourages schools to create clubs to inspire girls in Cameroon to get interested in STEM for A. Richard Newton Educator.

Amanda Gicharu – ABIE Award Winner and co-founder of Tech Republic Africa, a startup that creates premier technology education experiences for African youth aged 7 – 19 with 45% of her STEM trainees were girls for Change Agent.

NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer, Jeanette Epps, NASA electrical engineer Christina Deoja and Mimi Valdez, executive producer of the coming film, Hidden Figures, and Chief Creative Officer for i am OTHER.

Jakita Thomas – Featured ACM speaker and Philpott Westpoint Stevens Associate Professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Auburn University, who will present on Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT), a longitudinal between-subjects research project exploring how African-American middle-school girls develop computational algorithmic thinking (CAT) capabilities over time in the context of designing games for social change.

There is also a featured panel celebrating black women in computing that includes Mave Houston, Jamika Burge, Quincy Brown, Sandra Johnson and Gloria Washington.

Our Data on Diversity

Here is what we learned from gathering data as part of our call for participation:

  • 85% of our speakers are willing to identify their race or ethnicity
  • Our overall representation of women of color was better than the industry average but not in line with the general population averages
  • Our overall representation of women of color as speakers was consistent with the rates of submissions from these groups – so the quality of submissions and rate of acceptance was consistent with other groups.

Here is the data:

Speaker Diversity Percentages
African Americans 4.9%
Hispanic or Latina/o 5.1%
Asian/Asian Americans 36.4%
European/Euro Americans/White 37%
Identify as Other 4%
Alaska Native or American Indian/Native American 0.4%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0.4%

We are pleased with our initial results but recognize we can do more to increase the diversity of speakers at GHC.

We are excited to present an amazing group of women at GHC this year. We know that women technologists are shaping the future of technology.  We are honored to provide a platform to empower and advance half of the world’s intellectual capital.