“Why Are There So Many Men?” : Women’s Computing Conference Flooded With Males As Activists Debate How To Identify One

A major networking conference focused on centering women in computing is facing backlash from some participants after a flood of males were allowed to attend, reportedly due to the event’s inclusivity policies.

Created in 1994 and inspired by the legacy of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, the AnitaB.org Grace Hopper Celebration purports to “bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront.” While the conference was historically focused on women, recent developments in its gender inclusivity policy saw its branding open up to “non-binary” participants as well.

In its most recent Press Release on the conference, AnitaB.org deemed it “the world’s largest gathering of women and non-binary technologists.”

But the week-long conference, which costs $650 to attend for students and academics but over $1,200 for the general public, is facing heat this year after some female attendees noticed a “significant number of men” attending the event.

In a now-scrubbed Change.org petition, one female attendee calls on the Grace Hopper Committee (GHC) to provide women who purchased the pricy tickets a full refund, and commit to banning men in the future.

“GHC (2023) is named after our pioneering female programmers, who have paved the way for gender equality within the tech industry. This event was established with the intention of empowering women by creating a safe space where they can connect, learn, and thrive. However, by allowing men to participate, GHC fails to uphold its own mission,” petitioner Agnes Lu wrote in the description.

The petition was uploaded on September 26, but deleted on September 27. A cached version of the page shows that it had collected over 2,700 signatures in the 24 hours it had been active. The reasons for removal are currently unknown.

Similar sentiment was shared on Reddit as a conference attendee posted “why are there so many men at Grace Hopper?”

Posted two days ago, the user wrote: “I’m seeing entire groups of just men, at a conference that’s sole purpose is to give opportunities to WOMEN and non-binary individuals in a male dominated field. I attended last year and did not [see] any male identifying student attendees. This is genuinely infuriating.”

The user goes on to articulate in the replies that there are a limited number of networking slots available and internships are fiercely competitive.

Like in the petition, the user claimed there was an obvious discernible difference between males and “non-binary” individuals, an issue that quickly became a point of contention in the comments.

“They could just be non-binary, gender queer, etc, or that could just be men trying to get a leg up. No way to know,” one user wrote in response, to which the original poster replied: “They all have he/him on their lanyards and it’s extremely clear they identify as men and are here to take opportunities away from the actual women and [non-binary] attendees.”

But the attempted defense was quickly undermined, with some users calling the original poster a “TERF” for failing to include gender-diverse non-binary people.

“Nonbinaries, including he/him nonbinaries, belong at grace hopper and are welcome there. TERFs like you are the ones who shouldn’t be there,” one comment reads.

“Lots of NB go as he/him. The only way you could possibly know is if you asked them,” another claimed.

On X (formerly Twitter), users debated how males could be “gate-kept” from the conference without being exclusionary, to which few solutions were provided.

The conference was held in Orlando this year, in tradition with previous years, but has announced it will relocate for the next iteration due to changes to recent state legislation regarding LGBT people.

In a statement on their site, AnitaB.org claims that Florida has introduced an “onslaught of legislation that not only devalues women and non-binary people and, at the intersections, those who live as members of the LGBTQIA+ community but is also aimed at erasing Black history.” It states that the 2024 conference is being arranged to be held in another location.

One of the featured speakers this year was trans-identified male Sasha Costanza-Chock, who describes himself as a “researcher and designer who works to support community-led processes that build shared power, dismantle the matrix of domination, and advance ecological survival.”

Costanza-Chock spoke on a panel with Alejandra Caraballo, a trans-identified male attorney, on the “Intersection of Tech and Social Justice.” The panel was described as “diving into the critical intersection of technology and social equity and explore how technology can inadvertently become a barrier for underserved groups.”

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Reduxx is your stop for pro-woman, pro-child safeguarding news and opinion that goes outside the mainstream narratives.