Greetings from the conference! It's been a long, full day and I'm exhausted, but I couldn't let the day pass without at least commenting a bit on the conference. I'm feeling a bit too scattered right now to do anything too detailed or thoughtful about specific talks and such, so instead I'll do an impressions/bullet points/random snippets of interest from today's festivities.
First, though, one of the things I appreciate most about this conference, and one of the things I forget until I get here, is just how incredibly empowering and fulfilling this conference is. It may sound trite, but to be in a place with 1300 other cool, interesting, smart, technical women; to go to talks where women rule the microphone and the audience is 98% women, and no one is afraid to look stupid by asking a question; to meet so many interesting women from all over academia, industry, and the world; is truly the best experience in the world. This conference energizes me like nothing else does, and makes me hopeful for the future. It also makes me fervently wish that CS could *always* look like this, or at least closer to this. It is amazing!
OK, now for my thoughts and highlights and such:
* The big news, announced at tonight's banquet, is that the conference is going to every year instead of every other year. Hooray! The next one will be in Orlando and will be later in October (of 2007). I expected that this would happen eventually; it's nice to see it happen now.
* Lots of talk this morning in the intro and keynote about numbers, about how CS is the only STEM field that's *lost* women since the 80's, about making work more family-friendly. Shirley Tilghman's keynote touched on a lot of these themes, too.
* Shirley Tilghman also commented on the moral obligation we have to diversify the field. That really resonated with me. (Also, it was either her or Jan Cuny that quoted a statistic that 70% of the population was women, minority, or disabled---also making the case for diversifying the field. Kind of a no-brainer when you put it that way! although I had never heard that number before---anyone have more insight about that?)
* The undergrads I brought with me are having a blast. I know this because they started blowing me off at breakfast this morning (in a positive way, of course). I take this as a sign that they are meeting people, which is exactly what I want them to do.
* Every session I went to today was very good, but the one that stands out the most was about ethics in computing, a talk given by Deborah Johnson from UVA. Very thought-provoking! Her point was that technology and computers are not inherently neutral, as we like to believe, but that they are sociotechnical constructs. Good stuff.
* I also went to a lively BOF session on whether "female-friendly science" is a good thing or whether it's just a euphemism for "watering down" science. Lots of interesting comments in that session---and to some extent, the dissent fell along age lines, which was really interesting. (a bit of the whole "young women don't feel they need feminism anymore" phenomenon, perhaps.)
* I brought the fabulous new bag with me, and I've already received a compliment on it. Woo hoo!
That's all I got---watch for another installment tomorrow.