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Kimberly Blessing

I helped elect a female president!

2 min read

Yes, I wish I were talking about Hillary! But I'm not.

Instead I'm talking about the ACM elections, and the woman I'm referring to is Wendy Hall, CBE, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Computer Society, co-founding director of the Web Science Research Initiative, and (if you couldn't tell) one of my role models. So the votes have been counted and, come July 1, Wendy will also serve a two-year term as President of the ACM. Congratulations!

I should also mention that Wendy received the Anita Borg Award for Technical Leadership from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology at the 2006 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing, for which I was the webmaster -- an awesome volunteer opportunity which just happens to be available! If you've got skills in WordPress then please apply!

And speaking of GHC, I also need to mention that registration for the 2008 conference is now open! After so many years of attending, stalking Telle Whitney, and volunteering, this year I'm finally going to be speaking on a panel! (Go me!) So, don't miss this opportunity to interact with thousands of smart, successful, techie women -- including Fran Allen!

Gosh I love being a woman in computing.

Kimberly Blessing

Cheap, programmable robot

1 min read

Via the Institute for Personal Robots in Education:

Scribbler Robot

We're pleased to let you know that the robot platform we developed for CS-1 instruction is now available for purchase.

The $149.95 platform includes a Parallax Scribbler robot, with an add on board developed at Georgia Tech. The complete diff-drive robot then includes: a color camera, bluetooth connectivity, a speaker, light sensors, and line sensors.

The robot can be controlled and programmed from a PC in Python using the Myro package developed at Bryn Mawr (included with the robot).

It is all part of our new curriculum for CS-1 centered on a robot context. The new textbook is also available online at our website.

Kimberly Blessing

Women in IT

2 min read

I've been monitoring the flap at ComputerWorld over a post about the employ of scantily-clad women at a booth at ITXpo, and I have to say that, after plenty of dismissive responses from many male readers, it's nice to see that some men will acknowledge how difficult it can be for women in IT. Mark Golden, a ComputerWorld reader, writes:

I’m male and heterosexual, and as far as I’m concerned, any man who doesn’t notice the rampant sexism in this industry needs to have his brain replaced. IT workers must be the raunchiest, dirtiest bunch of overgrown adolescents in the nation... The whole IT culture of gender disparity and social inadequacy infects everything... A woman in a technical position in the IT industry needs more than talent and ability; she needs skin like steel.

What's even better is that Don Tennant, Editorial Director of ComputerWorld and author of the post that kicked off the hoopla, takes the issue a step further:

I have such a high regard for the IT profession and the leading role it takes in improving our lives that I do indeed feel strongly that it should be a leading advocate for the eradication of all forms of social injustice as well. Does that mean I feel the IT profession is "above these things?" Yes, it certainly does. Then again, I think every profession should be above practices that are dismissive of women or any other group within the profession.

Mr. Tennant even posted an e-mail from reader Rita Thissen (who is also a fellow member of Systers), which should be pretty eye-opening for anyone who doesn't think that women have issues to deal with in the IT industry.

I've always felt fortunate to have come up in IT in predominantly female environments -- due in part to having attended and worked at a women's college, and perhaps also due to the fact that I have worked mostly on the East Coast, where there are more women in IT. But still, I have encountered some pretty blatant sexual harassment... fortunately, my "skin of steel" helped me get through those negative situations without me losing any of the passion I have for my career in technology.

Kimberly Blessing

Give One, Get One

1 min read

Until November 26December 31, you can sponsor One Laptop Per Child by buying an XO laptop for a child in a developing country, and then get another one for yourself. I just got mine... hurry up and get yours!

Kimberly Blessing

Inventing the Future at GHC07

1 min read

Another year, another Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing!

This year I'm attending both TechLeaders and GHC. Last night I even got to party with the Tapia folks!

If I have time to write more here, I will... but otherwise watch the GHC flickr group, twitter, and wiki to learn about what's going on!

Kimberly Blessing

Survey of Women Working in IT

1 min read

The K-12 Informal Education Hub of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), led by the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), is conducting a three-phase study to determine what experiences or factors influence females to pursue a career in information technology (IT). Study results will help guide efforts to increase the number of women entering IT fields. We would appreciate your help in disseminating the survey to as many technical women as possible. Please forward this email to other women you know working in IT.

Take the survey!

Kimberly Blessing

Check out the new ABI site!

2 min read

The new Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology site went live earlier today. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

The production of this site has been one of my labors of love over the past year and I'm so honored that the Institute, whose mission is near and dear to my heart, chose KimmieCorp to create their new Web presence. But I didn't work alone:

  • Phoebe Espiritu did all of the UI and Visual Design work, and without her efforts, this site wouldn't look anywhere near as elegant and engaging as it does.
  • Erica Rios, ABI's Internet Project Manager, deserves huge kudos for persuading ABI to undergo this redesign, and for working so diligently to see it through.
  • Eric Mason and Deborah Alexander, the ABI Communications team, were also key in giving design direction and in posting content.

Thanks to everyone above for their great work, plus to everyone else at ABI (including their volunteers) for their trust and cooperation!

Folks, here's a public service reminder: There are plenty of other non-profit and volunteer organizations out there that need help and advice when it comes to creating a functional, usable, accessible and stylish Web site... so find one that you're committed to and get to work! The organization will have a site that communicates their message in a compelling manner, and you'll have work that you can be proud of. It's great when doing good is a win-win.

Kimberly Blessing

Best SXSW Panel EVER!

1 min read

I'll have more to say about other aspects of SXSW later, but I wanted to say that the Non-Developers to Open Source Acolytes: Tell Me Why I Care panel was the best panel I've ever been to at SXSW. The audience was diverse (about 50/50!) and engaged, and we had a discussion that even enlightened me about something I thought I knew quite a bit about.

Thank you, Elisa Camahort, for organizing such an interesting and engaging panel. Now I really want to attend BlogHer because I'm sure you organize a kick-ass conference.

It was also really wonderful to hear from Annalee Newitz (co-editor of the very awesome She's Such a Geek), Dawn Foster, and my friend Erica Rios. Erica made poignant references to women's involvement in creating technology and to the opportunities available to women via open source, which received a round of applause. Needless to say, that discussion needs to be continued.

Note to Hugh Forrest: Bring back Elisa as a moderator -- or maybe as a keynote?! -- and bring back these panelists to continue a discussion that brought everyone to the table!

Kimberly Blessing

Obligatory Pre-SXSW Post

1 min read

Alrighty folks, it's SXSW time.

Come to the WaSP Annual Meeting where we'll tell you what we've been up to, and where we'll be Takin' it to the Street on Monday, March 12 at 5 PM.

My AOL pals are doing another "How to Convince Your Company" panel, this time on embracing mashup culture. And Arun is also doing a browser wars panel, and I honestly can't think of anyone else who'd be better at leading such a discussion.

I was surprised to learn that PayPal is also getting involved in SXSW, by sponsoring an evening event: the PayPal SXSW Showdown. I'm going to meet the organizer later today and find out what it's all about. If you want to attend, be sure to RSVP!

Other stuff I'm looking forward to...

If you see me, stop me and say hello!

Kimberly Blessing

Fran Allen to receive Turing Award

2 min read

Woo hoo! From the latest ACM Press Release (emphasis mine):

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, has named Frances E. Allen the recipient of the 2006 A.M. Turing Award for contributions that fundamentally improved the performance of computer programs in solving problems, and accelerated the use of high performance computing. This award marks the first time that a woman has received this honor. The Turing Award, first presented in 1966, and named for British mathematician Alan M. Turing, is widely considered the "Nobel Prize in Computing." It carries a $100,000 prize, with financial support provided by Intel Corporation.

Congratulations, Fran! (See my pictures of Fran at GHC 2004.)

Over at USA Today, Kevin Maney has a great article on Fran. He tells her story and comments on the lack of women in technology fields at the same time.

Maney writes, "Allen, now retired from IBM Research, started in computing in 1957 — a time when tech companies, believe it or not, seemed like wide-open and exciting places for women to build careers." This echoes the sentiments expressed to me by Milly Koss last year, when she told me the story of how she was hired by Eckert-Mauchley just after getting engaged (typically a death knoll for a woman trying to start a career in the 50's).

I love how Maney confronts the hype around girls and women not being suited for math and science -- head on. "First of all, it's ridiculous to suggest that girls are less predisposed to math and science. Allen is not a freak of nature. Instead, something happened to the technology profession — and to public attitudes about it — to scare off girls." I couldn't agree more.

I remember first learning about Fran Allen, back when I was an undergrad. (Deepak encouraged us to learn about the history of computer science and, in particular, about the role of women in its history.) Ever since, she's been a role model to me, and I know she's been a role model and mentor to many other women as well. I'm so excited for her to receive this award, not only because it acknowledges her valuable contributions and dedication to the field, but also because it will make her story better known to scores of people (especially young women) considering a career in computing.