Monday, October 5, 2009

On Grace Hopper and Bathrooms

I had the esteemed honor and pleasure of being able to attend the Grace Hopper Conference this year, my first time. It was something I've been wanting to for a long time and thanks to Women@SCS and my work over the summer I was able to find the means to attend the conference this year. It's hard to convey the scale of the conference in only text but it's something I invite everyone to attend. While all of the sessions I attended had a positive affect on me, I don't think any really spoke to my experience more than the Women of Color session.

Specifically, at one point during the session Professor Taylor who was running the session spoke of meeting with the head of her university. She explained that for him to understand the situation she found herself in, he would have to attend a university where all of the students were women as well as the majority of the faculty and he would need to climb two floors in order to find a bathroom for his gender.

It was only at this point that I realized I was currently experiencing a case study in role reversal. I by no means think this a perfect reversal of the situation as everyone at Grace Hopper was very pleasant to me and I had a great time at the conference. However at the same time I became hyperaware of my surroundings. Having to walk all the way back to the lobby as all of the men's restrooms were converted to women's, the strange comfort I felt whenever I met with one of the few men at the conference, and most significantly the fact that on more than one occasion I felt I had to justify to someone I was speaking to why I was there.

While I can't pretend this scenario accurately portrays the minority existence in academic institutions I can say for me this brings a different perspective to the research we've completed thus far. Moreover it further convinces me of the need to find role models and images that support you wherever you go. It's hard to feel like you belong where there are so few people around like you.

1 comment:

  1. You might be interested in a new book about Grace Hopper published by MIT Press. More information about "Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age" can be found at