Women in Computing Members Attend 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration

Northwestern Engineering sent 47 students to the three-day conference in Houston, Texas

Faculty and students in computer science represent Northwestern Engineering at the Grace Hopper Celebration.Faculty and students in computer science represent Northwestern Engineering at the Grace Hopper Celebration.
Members of Northwestern's Women in Computing group pose for a group photo at the Grace Hopper Celebration.Members of Northwestern's Women in Computing group pose for a group photo at the Grace Hopper Celebration.
A group from Women in Computing gather for a photo at the conference in Houston, Texas.A group from Women in Computing gather for a photo at the conference in Houston, Texas.

Forty-seven members of Northwestern University’s Women in Computing (WiC) group traveled to Houston, Texas, to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, an opportunity for the students to network with and learn from women in engineering and technology.

The students participated in the three-day conference from September 26–28, which included a career fair, leadership workshops, industry speakers, and mentoring circles. They were accompanied by Northwestern Engineering staff and faculty, including Seda Memik, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Jessica Hullman, assistant professor of computer science and assistant professor of journalism.

“It was really powerful to know that Northwestern is investing a lot in the future of women in tech,” said Maggie Lou, a senior studying computer science and WiC’s external president. “Most schools don’t send as many students as Northwestern does, and I think it sends a really powerful message that this is something that our university cares a lot about.”

Northwestern Engineering has sent groups of nearly 50 students or more to the conference since 2015 through the support of donors.

Conference attendees received the opportunity to meet recruiters from a variety of businesses spanning industries such as finance, entertainment, real estate, and technology, and a number of Northwestern students walked away from the event with job offers from companies like Apple.

“They can really build their network because it’s really a supportive environment,” said Ellen Worsdall, assistant dean for student affairs at the McCormick School of Engineering. “I want them to build skills that will help them succeed, both professionally and personally, and come back with a strong sense of empowerment to move forward to help diversify the fields of computer science.”

Keynote speakers included CEOs and professors discussing topics such as artificial intelligence and renewable energy. Many WiC students sought out the session, “Launching Our Future,” with Northwestern Engineering alumna Gwynne Shotwell (BS '86, MS '88), president and chief operating officer of SpaceX.

“It was great that we got to go and meet all these women that are really role models for us,” said Laura Barrera, WiC’s internal president and a senior studying computer science, with a business institutions minor.

Barrera added that attendees benefitted from bonding with their female computer science peers, strengthening the WiC community at Northwestern.

“I came to appreciate the big group we have at Northwestern and how smart every single one of them is,” she said. “We really have a great and amazing group of people.”