Commentary & Perspectives

GHC 2016: Why We’re Returning to Houston

By Mona Sabet
Vice President, General Manager at Grace Hopper Celebration

Since I announced that GHC 2016 would take place in Houston, I’ve received several questions about why the Anita Borg Institute decided to host the conference in Texas again next year. I have been surprised by the passion with which people ask.

There are so many great cities across the country that would love to host such an impactful and inspiring conference. That said, Houston wasn’t just a random choice. Here are some of the factors that went into our decision to host GHC 2016 in Houston.

Population & Diversity

Texas is home to 27 million people – that’s more than 8 percent of the country! And Houston is the most racially and ethnically diverse large metro area in the U.S., according to Census data. Houston’s huge, diverse population is a big reason we’re coming back for GHC next year. We’re excited to continue to engage the state’s growing population of women technologists, government agencies and corporate leaders to advance our mission.

Job Creation

Houston is also the country’s number 1 job creator and home to a large number of Fortune 500 companies that employ many technologists. Houston is also home to the NASA astronaut corps — arguably one of the most innovative government agencies. It was such an honor to hear from a panel of senior women who work at the Johnson Space Center at GHC 2015.

Academic & Government Institutions

Texas is also home to many prestigious colleges and universities, and we were thrilled to see 27 of them bring 450 attendees and represent their programs at the 2015 GHC career fair.

We were also fortunate and honored to host Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker, one of the first openly gay mayors of a major U.S. city. Mayor Parker graciously welcomed ABI, GHC and spoke at the conference’s LGBTQ Luncheon.

GHC 2016 in Houston

The city of Houston did an incredible job welcoming ABI and the 12,000+ people who attended GHC. We made a lot of strong and valuable connections with amazing people in Houston, a rapidly growing metro area with tech jobs for women in a range of different industries. Logistically, the city has strong infrastructure in place to host a conference of this size and scale. We look forward to returning to Houston next year and growing our impact there.

Now don’t get me wrong: there are measures proposed by Texas state legislators and Houston city officials that I, personally, do not support. Still, I believe that you either lead change or it leads you.  And change comes from engagement, and the strength, skill and tolerance to be present and actively heard regardless of your environment. I believe that we have made some strong and valuable connections with amazing people in the state of Texas, and I look forward to growing our impact there.