Grace Hopper Conference is an amazing experience – this year there were 18,000 attendees and as a woman in tech, I don’t get to be in a room with that many other women pretty much ever. The energy, camaraderie, and empowerment are palpable as you’re watching the keynotes, attending sessions, braving the career fair, or even just while walking the conference center hallways. Hearing the stories highlighted throughout the conference (Dr. Sue Black OBE is an absolute inspiration) and being able to see role models in your field that you can actually relate to is truly intoxicating.
GHC 17 was my second time attending the conference, both times with Microsoft. I attended sessions about the technology behind the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, merging education and technology into one job, the importance of employee resource groups within the gaming industry, and more. I went to after hours events run by major tech companies and community groups, including a pool party hosted by Lesbians Who Tech and Slack, an event at Epcot hosted by Women Techmakers, and of course an Ice Bar party hosted by Microsoft.
However, this year I was lucky enough to not only attend the Grace Hopper Conference, but I was honored and thrilled to be selected as a speaker.
My session was called “Creating a Bi-Inclusive Workplace” and it took place Friday morning. It was the first 20-minute slot of a 3-part hour long session on Inclusion Strategies. My friend humored my giddiness and took a bunch of pictures of me in front of my slides and on stage before I presented.
About 75-100 people showed up and I spoke about the importance of bisexual inclusion within the workplace, using research data from the Human Rights Campaign and the Stonewall Foundation. I ended by providing the audience with action items for how to help, then had a few minutes to take questions.
As an out bisexual and queer woman, having the support of Microsoft to give this presentation was incredible. Microsoft Women tweeted about my talk, my department covered the cost of my trip and ticket, and as an added bonus, I was asked to write this blog post! Not only did Microsoft accept my queerness, they encouraged, supported, and amplified it.
Speaking at Grace Hopper was a dream come true and I had an incredible experience. My time at GHC 17 in Orlando this past October empowered me to continue speaking out for women and LGBTQ+ people in tech and helped me make connections and memories I won’t soon forget.
Molly Walter works out of Microsoft’s Cambridge, MA office for the University Recruiting team and the Microsoft Garage. She is passionate about diversity, inclusion, and representation in tech. She tried to be a Computer Science major in college, but it didn’t stick. Most nights you can find her glued to her Xbox with her cat asleep on her lap. Follow her on Twitter at @CleverestGirl22