If women are underrepresented in computer science (and they are, by a large margin), you wouldn’t know it from sitting in on the Grace Hopper Celebration. Each fall, for the last 20 years, tens of thousands of women have converged for a long weekend of collaboration, networking, mentoring and commemoration of their contributions to the tech world.
COVID-19 pushed this fall’s convention into a virtual format, but it didn’t prevent the University of Denver’s Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science from sending 26 students (plus seven faculty and one staff member) for free. A private donor and funds from the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion budget covered the costs.
In interviews via email and Zoom, the DU Newsroom asked Anndi Russell, a graduate student in the data science program; Izzy Johnson, an undergraduate pursuing a BS in computer science; and Scott Leutenegger, a computer science professor and the Ritchie School’s director of inclusive excellence, about their experience
What’s it like for each of you as a woman in computer science?
Anndi Russell: My program is more equal in terms of women and men than is true in the larger computing world. But before this, I worked in education for a few years — which is a very female-heavy industry typically — so I know switching into computer science and the tech world is going to be a little different. I’m grateful for having a lot of female classmates right now and people I’ve connected with. We support each other.
Izzy Johnson: As an undergrad, I think I was surprised by how many women were in my classes, but it’s definitely still weighted the other way. At DU specifically, I’ve really enjoyed how many female professors I’ve had. I’ve had some really influential female professors in the Ritchie School.
October is National Women’s Small Business Month, an initiative focused on promoting female-led business operations.
In 2020, this month-long spotlight on female business owners is especially important, as recent reports show the impact of the pandemic has been dramatic on women in the workforce: Many aged 25 to 54 have stepped out of the professional environment to care for children and family.
Despite this year’s challenges, the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report indicated upward growth in the world of female-helmed businesses.
Findings from the research indicate there are nearly 13 million women-owned businesses in the US that employ 9.4 million people and generate $1.9 trillion in sales.
Additionally, women-owned businesses grew 21% between 2014 to 2019, while businesses owned by women of color doubled that growth rate: As of 2019, women of color accounted for 50% of all women who owned businesses.
Within the retail and direct-to-consumer sector, there are many emerging female-led businesses that have found a way to thrive in 2020 despite its many obstacles.
I spoke with a few founders to hear their stories and to see how their retail operations are doing during the ups and downs of this year.
Marcy Capron-Vermillion and Coco Meers: Equilibria
Coco Meers (Co-Founder of PrettyQuick, acquired by Groupon in 2015) left Groupon in early 2018 to found Rebelle Collective, an early-stage investment fund focused on female entrepreneurs.
When recruiting founders for her portfolio, she spoke with Marcy Capron-Vermillion, a technologist with whom she had built early versions of PrettyQuick.
While Meers had the intention of investing in one of Capron-Vermillion’s new projects, their first conversation led them down an unintended path: Both were candid about recent mental and physical health struggles.
That single conversation led the duo down a greater path to co-found Equilibria in March of