Anita Borg Institute for Women picks Chicago

May 24, 2004


Chicago will host one of the computing industry's premier events for women in technology for the first time this October. The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery will hold their Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2004 event here from Oct. 6 to Oct. 9.

The conference marks a unique opportunity for Chicago's technology community to connect with some of the leading minds in computing.

The event focuses on the technical achievements of women in academia and industry, and recruited support of major corporate sponsors, including AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Google and Sun. According to organizers, it has the backing of major academic institutions including Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, the University of California at Berkeley and UC Irvine. Organizers are just beginning to reach out to Chicago-based companies and academic institutions for participation.

"Our programs date back to 1987 when Anita Borg founded the Systers community," says Telle Whitney, president of the Anita Borg Institute.

Systers was an early online community designed for women in technology. It enabled women to share thoughts about complex technology problems and about being a woman in the technology field. For more information, go to

Pioneer honored

Borg and Whitney founded the Grace Hopper celebration 10 years ago. The program honors Admiral Grace Hopper, a computer industry pioneer who invented the first compiler program in 1953, translating English-language instructions into language that computers can understand. Hopper also found the very first computer, bug, which was an actual insect that crawled into the wiring of a post-World War II computer.

Born in suburban Palatine, she encouraged women in computing and often sported a T-shirt proclaiming, "Well-behaved women rarely make history." Borg died of brain cancer last year.

"It's important to have diverse perspectives," Whitney says. "Half the consumers of technology are women. Engineers create products for the person down the hallway who looks an awful lot like them. If we don't have a diverse project team, the technology that all of us will use suffers," she adds.

Warby warbles on partnering

There's a rule in high-tech that you can't be good at everything. You need to team and partner.

Even the mighty Microsoft and Accenture, two companies that are known for their willfulness and independence, teamed up to form Avanade in April 2000. Their goal was to wed Microsoft's focus on software and Accenture's delivery of services to support large enterprise customers.

This Wednesday, the Chicago Software Association hosts its eighth annual partnering conference, focusing on the "Art of Alliances." Adam Warby, senior vice president, Americas for Avanade, keynotes the event. It's a homecoming for Warby, who previously worked in Chicago as general manager of the Midwest district for Microsoft.

Watch for Warby to share stories from the home front to make his point about successful high-tech partnering. "I have teenage daughters who are beginning to date," says Warby, who feels tech partnerships should be based on compatibility, not the glamor of the moment. "The best-looking boy is not always the one to go with," he advises. "Look for someone who you're going to be compatible with."

He stresses the need to tie alliances to the core business. "What often happens is alliances are treated as a separate entity," Warby says. "Commit to it and make it work," he adds. "Every-one at Avanade is an alliance partner."

Bits & bytes

The final presentations in this year's Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business take place Wednesday. Prize money totaling $50,000 is at stake.

u Also Wednesday, the Evanston-based Illinois Technology Enterprise Corp. and the Kellogg Graduate School of Management hold an entrepreneurial education event, "Bootstrapping Your Way to Success." Kellogg professor Linda Darragh moderates a panel that includes Bryan Hopcraft, co-founder, Simplified Workforce Solutions; Amy Ravi, co-founder, ConferenceSeek, and Art Roldan, CEO, SecurePipe.


Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners