Tag Archives: women in STEM

Critical Race Theory in HCI

Last week, I attended one of the meetups of the Chicago local ACM Chapter. ACM has several SIGs – Special Interest Groups, and technically speaking, I am a part of only one of them: SIGMOD (Management of Data) and also a member of ACM-W – Women in Computing. 

“Before all this started” (everybody these days have to say this, referring to our previous life), so – before it all started, I attended some of the ACM meetups, but not that often. 

The Chicago local chapter of ACM SIGCHI – Computer-Human Interaction – is something outside my area of interest, but I started to attend their virtual events and became more and more interested, and now I want to share it with my network :). 

The topic of the last week’s meetup was  “Critical Race Theory For HCI”, and I regret I didn’t publicize this event! It was so-so-so worth attending!

I am going to cite one example which started this presentation, and you will see what I am talking about. 

Here is the situation. A child is doing a project about a family vacation. If you would google images for “family vacation,” you will see the images of white families on exotic beaches. And it will take you, they said, six pages scrolling to get to the first picture of a non-white family. And if you refine your search with specifying “black family,” you will get pictures with a very different type of vacation. And you might need to refine your search even more. 

This picture is bad enough, especially because when you hear that, you realize right away that it’s true! And you just never thought about it. Well, maybe you did, but I didn’t!  

Afterward, there was a conversation about what can be done to change things and how we can all make it better in technical aspects and personnel management. And I think that was the most important take-away: do not let yourself off guard. Keep questioning yourself. 

And, if this all sounded interesting – consider joining this meetup!

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“The Pioneers of Computing” Talk

Last week, I attended several online events, way more than I usually do. One of them was sponsored by the WIE (Women In Engineering) Group of IEEE Chicago section. I am an IEEE member, and I used to be more active in the group than I am now. As with many other things, I hope that I will be able to participate more in the future.

The talk, which was presented on Thursday, was called “The Pioneers of Computing and The Imposter Syndrome,” and it was about women pioneering programming and computer science. Everybody knows about Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, and several other female figures in the world of programming. But I didn’t know that at the dawn of programming as a profession, it was considered a “girls job.”The talk was presented by Anne Lee, Nokia Bell Labs Technology Strategy and Architecture CTO Partner. She made it clear that the narrative “women aren’t biologically inclined or skilled to do tech work” has no foundation whatsoever.

It was surprising to see the clips from newspapers and magazines from the late 50s and 60s, which mentioned “computer girls.” Remember that that was way before the age of personal computers. Still, programming was considered “the office job.” Only later, when programming started to emerge as a high-skilled trade, which was paid really well, men entered the profession and created the myth of “women can’t program.”

I am sure that each person working in tech has met some outstanding female programmers, and I want to reiterate that that is a norm rather than an exception!

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About My Nomination, And How To Vote

First of all, a big THANK YOU to everybody who reached out congratulating me for becoming a finalist in the “Technologist of the Year” nomination. This nomination is especially important for me, because I’ve always strived to apply the best CS theories for the success of the business. I do not believe in approaches, which can’t be used in practice. However, I think that applying the right theoretical principles in the industry can have a tremendous impact.

Another aspect important to me is that all my innovations are related to PostgreSQL. If I were asked to name the three most important things which I’ve introduced at Braviant Holdings, it would be

  • The wide usage of FDW both in OLAP and OLTP
  • The usage of pg_bitemporal in both OLAP and OLTP
  • Abandoning ORM and using JSON -based data exchange between applications and databases

There is more in my blog about all of the above, but what I want to point now – each of these Top 3 is about using PostgreSQL in an innovative way.

The award descriptions say:

Presented to the individual whose talent has championed true innovation, either through new applications of existing technology or the development of technology to achieve a truly unique product or service.

Isn’t it precisely what I just said :)? Do I want to win? Absolutely! Do I think I can win? Yes! Can you help me :)?…

Several people reach out to me, telling me that they have difficulties casting their votes. I agree that the voting process is at least contra-intuitive. So let me explain it step by step.

First, you go to that link.

Then, click where it is said to CREATE LOGIN. It says that you can login with your Facebook account, but this does not work. So you will need to create a login. After that, you need to click on the large grey “Like” on the very top. Wait for a response to make sure your vote is counted.

Also, there are SHARE buttons, and unfortunately, the most important one – Share on LinkedIn – does not work. Others work fine, so you can help me by sharing with your network 🙂

And one more thing – this voting is only opened till August 16, so please don’t delay 🙂

Once again – THANK YOU!

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Postgres DEI Work Group

Last Friday, I participated in the first conference call of the DEI Work Group of PostgresConf. And if you are wondering what DEI means, it means Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion.

The whole conversation started at the PostgresConf  2019 in New York. There we had a diversity panel on the last day of the conference. I was mildly unhappy with both low attendance and somewhat too universal coverage of the issues of diversity. I think that the striking lack of diversity in the Postgres community is a bigger problem than in IT in general, and was expecting a more in-depth conversation.

And then a usual exchange happened. I am a person of action, and I can’t complain about anything without proposing a solution (even when nobody asks for one!). But this time I was actually asked whether I will be interested in doing something to improve the situation, and granted, I said Yes!

Now all the things I finally coming together. Details are available at the PostgresConf web site in the July Newsletter.

I am really looking forward to working on improving the situation, because – guess what?  – I have some ideas! And all my friends and colleagues, current and former, know that if I believe something should be done – it will be done 🙂

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Braviant Holdings talks at 2Q PG Conf

Better later, than never: by popular demand here are the videos of both talks from Braviant Holdings, presented at 2Q  PG Conf. Enjoy 🙂


 

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PG Open 2018

For some reason I feel like there were less announcements this year about the upcoming PG Open. But now it is fast approaching: it will take place Sep 5-7, in San Francisco, at the Parc 55 Hilton hotel – same as the last year.

I will be presenting again, however I do not feel it as “again”. Some of my peers were telling me that they are so sure my talk will be accepted – they can’t even understand why I may be anxious. But for me this year was especially challenging. The workload was huge, partially objectively, partially because of the ambitious goals I’ve set for myself, and partially because of the health issues I’ve being dealing with for the past several months.

This being said, I am really happy that our talk was selected to be presented at the PG Open. And another reason to be happy – after three years gap I got back to my favorite topic of ORIM, and I am presenting together with an app developer – my coworker Alyssa Ritchie. Almost back to the old days, but better :).

And the Early Bird registration is still opened – please check out the conference web site!

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ACT-W Conference: Dr. Helen Sun keynote

Dr. Sun keynote was definitely the best thing out of the whole conference! The talk was called “My Personal Journey and Transformation Story”. To be honest ], my first reaction when I heard about switching career from the English professor to the information technology was rather skeptical, but the more I listened to the talk the more I started to realize how close is it to what I believe in, and what I consider the most important things in life and professional career. I find it very true what Dr. Sun said about the leadership. She cites the quote from Bob Gates that “Leadership is when people choose to follow
you, even if there’s no consequences of not doing so”.

But the most interesting thing happened at the very end of the talk. Dr. Sun said: if somebody will be talking to you about work-life balance, do not believe them. There is no such a thing as a work life balance. It can only be a work-life integration!

And that was the word! For many years, when I was telling people my personal story, and when I was telling young women seeking a career in IT: you do not have to choose between work and family, you can have them both if you set up your mind accordingly. But the word “integration” never crossed my mind and yet it describes perfectly how I feel about this subject.

And then Dr. Sun continued, talking about how she always would make a point to talk to her son on Skype every day when she was away on business trips, and about tons of other things that she did. and most of them would be exactly what I did. And what she said about her son not being upset, that she often could attend his events, and that he was proud of her, and how she gave him a positive example – I could say it about my kids, word to word.

So when she was finished, I raised my hand for a question, and told her how much I’ve enjoyed her presentation, and thanked her for giving me that word – work-life integration, and told her how my life journey resembled her’s.

And I think she was really glad to hear that 🙂

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About ACT-W conference

Last week I was at a conference which was not a database conference for a change. And taking into account the fact, that I am “chronically busy” at work these days, there should have been very compelling reasons for me to attend this conference.

The name of the conference ACT-W stands for “Advancing Careers in Tech for Women”. What I especially liked about it’s organization was that although the conference itself was only one day long, there were some conference-related events in the evenings of two days before the conference.

The first one (Oct 18) was the screening of the documentary “She started it” followed by a panel discussion.

There were some things I liked about the movie, particularly a message that if a woman does not see anybody around her modeling some behavior, doing certain things, she will never even think and that it’s possible. And from this perspective I think it it is very important to show these young women being entrepreneurs, being tech leaders, daring to enter this field.

There were other things which I didn’t like, mostly that the technical side of each of the projects which were showcased did not sound convincing. But overall this movie was a great discussion starter.

The second day (or rather evening) was pure networking. And again I think it was a great idea to allocate time outside the conference for people to meet and to learn more about what others are doing.

And finally, the conference day. Unfortunately, I was only able to be there for half a day, but the most important thing was that I was able to listen the the keynotes.

The first one was by Jenny Farver “How Leaders Talk”, and the second one was Dr. Helen Sun “A Personal Journey and Career Transformation”, and I am going to write about both of them separately.

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How women networking should NOT be organized

There was one small episode during ICDE 2017, and although it has been a month already, I still feel like I want to write about. Here is want happened

Among other booths of different vendors there was (as usual) the Amazon AWS. And one of their reps told me,that on Thursday they are going to have a “women event”, and whether I want to sign up, and if I just could leave my email with them. I told her: well, there is a conference banquet on Thursday, at what time precisely your event is going to be? And she said reassuringly: after the banquet!

Now, the banquet would start at 6PM, and on Wednesday evening I receive the following email:

Hi Hettie,
I wanted to reach out on behalf of AWS and invite you to attend the AWS Women in Engineering Networking Event tomorrow on Thursday, April 20. Our recruitment and engineering teams are coming down from Seattle for the ICDE Conference and we’d love to meet you in-person at our happy hour at Blue Door Winery in San Diego (around 3 miles from the conference venue).
There will be wine tasting, artisanal bites, and a raffle on-site. Please feel free to bring guests, the more the merrier!

I am clicking on the invite, and guess what start time it shows? Yes, you are right – at 6PM.

Let me tell you that. The banquet is the most important social event at any conference, and I would always make a point for the younger generation about the importance of attending a conference banquet. There you can be introduced or just introduce yourself to anybody, you can talk at length with the authors of the papers which were most interesting for you. People just are more relaxed and do not run to attend the next session. And if somebody organized a “women networking event” at the same time – how this should be perceived? Like “kid’s table”?! How much this kind of networking would worth? And if the event organizers didn’t bother to look at the conference program when scheduling this event, it’s even worse…

Fortunately, at least at the first glance, there was not that many women who would trade the banquet for this networking event 🙂

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Once again about women in science

A friend of mine have sent me this link almost a month ago, but it’s just now that I got to writing about this article in The Guardian.

I liked it a lot; the most important thing it is stressing – women are already doing science, so there may be less need at this point “to encourage girls to do science” The statistics show the actually in many areas of science there are more women that man!

Then the question comes – why in this case there are less women being published?

The New Scientist blames the “choice” to have a family. It points to a study in this month’s American Economic Review that shows women incurring earnings penalties in science if they have children. A recentHouse of Commons science and technology committee report goes into more detail, saying that scientific research careers are dominated by short-term contracts with poor job security – at the very time of life that women need to have children (if they want them). The female postdoctoral scientist faces difficult decisions while stuck on fixed-term contracts before tenure, with very little in the way of institutional support. Women should not have to choose between career and family, says the science magazine. But surely male scientists face similar choices?

Turns out – not. And what follows is something we all knew for a very long time. I remember how may years ago, when I was a consultant at the City of Chicago my single-mom-consultant co-worker used to say: I need stay at home wife!

Not a husband mind you :). So, here is how the article goes:

Apparently not. European social science research shows that male and female scientists often have different types of partners: male scientists more frequently have a stay-at-home partner looking after the children, while female scientists are more likely to have another scientist as a spouse. So male scientists might not need family-friendly working practices to have a successful career but female scientists do. Hence the loss of women in the “leaky pipeline” of scientific careers. And that is to say nothing of the research that found scientists perceived job applicants to be less competent when they had female names.

Sad, but true.

You know what it made me to think about? At ICDE and other conferences of the similar caliber the organizers usually report the submissions and accepted papers stats by countries and regions. Why not to report by gender? Some of my friends have already asked me looking at the pictures from the conference – why there were so little women?!

I understand, that it’s not always easy to derive gender from the name, and I also understand, that you can’t mandate people to submit their gender. But I was thinking that at least when you register for the conference, you might be ask – specify your gender (and you might “prefer not to answer”, there should be always be this option).

Ideally though I would love to see the stats on something like: how many women among the authors how may are the main authors, how many are registered for the conference, how many actually come and who is presenting:)

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