By: C1C Anna Little, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Have you ever looked around the room and noticed the scarcity of female colleagues? U.S. Air Force Academy cadets have taken note of how few women there are in our undergraduate classrooms – especially in computing. That is why the Rocky Mountain Celebration of Women in Computing (RMCWiC’22) conference was a welcome change for Tia Kolakowski, Jenna Breeden, me and Alison Thompson (above, from left) who were able to attend thanks to STEM-Trek and RMCWiC’22.
This September conference in Boulder, Colorado, was modeled after the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing – only on a smaller scale – to provide networking and learning opportunities for university students and professionals in the Rocky Mountain region. While the conference was less than 24 hours long (an evening and the following day), tidbits of knowledge were tightly packed. The poster session gave undergraduate and PhD students alike the opportunity to share their research and answer questions.
I shared my summer research project about quantum computing and repeatedly explained the importance of quantum computing in the future of cybersecurity. The Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions were fascinating. Members of our group lingered after BoFs to chat with others about graduate studies or work-life balance – two subjects that often weigh heavily on the minds of Air Force cadets. Our group’s favorite session was the keynote by Pooja Sankar who talked about her iterative process for creating Piazza, and the struggle it took to get the application off the ground. All the while, she believed in herself and her project; a note of inspiration from which we can all learn.
What always strikes me the most are the conversations that technical conferences spark. The most memorable conversations were with the few men who attended the conference – men who are passionate about equity and the advancement of women. At the first women-focused conference I attended, I was initially confused why men were there. After a few conferences and many conversations with thoughtful people, I have come to understand how equity is achieved, and I am grateful for the men who go out of their way to amplify women’s voices and elevate our cause.
Conferences, like RMCWiC’22, elevate the history of great women who proved themselves in this field, including Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, Jean Bartik, and many more. They made names for themselves through their ingenuity and brilliance, and because others lifted them up and celebrated their achievements. Let us continue to recognize the great minds in our community and elevate the voices of those who may go unheard, so they receive the praise and support they deserve.
Many thanks to RMCWiC’22 sponsors!