The Grace Hopper Celebration, an esteemed annual conference and career fair dedicated to elevating the research and career interests of women in computing, was recently swamped by controversy. This Orlando-based event, named after Grace Hopper, the renowned female mathematician whose groundbreaking work bolstered the U.S. Navy’s computing during World War II, encountered a large number of unexpected male attendees this year. These men purportedly identified as “non-binary” to gain access.
This influx of male participants stirred up a storm. According to posts by attendees on social media, these men were not interested in the seminars or panels; they were laser-focused on the job fair. They reportedly stormed booths, elbowing women out of the way, cutting lines and passing out résumés. One individual vented, “These men are acting like zoo animals, sprinting to the booths and physically hurting some of the attendees.”
Wow amazing. A bunch of women in tech all suddenly decided that the word "woman" means something again. https://t.co/M4jcTRpSGo
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) October 3, 2023
Lily Li, a product designer, reinforced this sentiment in her widely viewed TikTok video, stating that these men weren’t there for the panels or the seminars. They were there for the job opportunities, often at the expense of the women attendees. Comments from various women echoed Li’s observations, claiming they were harassed and even hit on by some of these male participants.
The nonprofit AnitaB, responsible for orchestrating the conference, acknowledged an “increase in participation of self-identifying males” at this year’s event. However, they emphasized that they cannot prohibit men from attending due to federal nondiscrimination protections. As the event spiraled, the organization’s chief impact officer felt compelled to address the crowd, emphasizing that some attendees had misrepresented their gender identity. He added that men were now consuming resources and recruiter time that should have been dedicated to women.
Bo Young Lee, the advisory president of AnitaB, publicly responded to the uproar. In her video posted on LinkedIn, Lee expressed her dismay: “This year, I must admit, I didn’t feel this way,” acknowledging that many attendees felt unsafe and unheard. She conveyed her sadness, anger, and determination to fight against such disturbances, underscoring the intention behind the event was to create a secure environment for women.
The controversy raises important questions about navigating the complexities of gender identity while ensuring that spaces dedicated to underrepresented groups remain secure. The Grace Hopper Celebration was designed as an inclusive platform for women and non-binary technologists. This year, it was overshadowed by males exploiting ambiguities in registration procedures created by woke ideology.