April 22-24 I was in Seattle for the Computing Research Association's Grad Cohort for Women. For the last ten years, the CRA has annually been sponsoring graduate women in computer science in their first through third years from across US and Canadian institutions to convene.
Initially skeptical of women-only conferences ("I don't need a special conference to network and discuss research"), I signed up for this upon my friend Oshani's recommendation. CRA-W Grad Cohort turned out to be a highly positive experience. One of the senior women sums it up well in an explanation to a male colleague: "Imagine if you went to work every day and there were only women. Imagine if you went to a conference, excited to discuss your research ideas, and there were only women around. Wouldn't you be excited to encounter another man?"
The program was informative and thought-provoking: there were helpful sessions and panels on topics such as presentation skills and interdisciplinary research. There was also a session on touchier subjects such as how to deal with small-scale harassment and how to identify and handle bias. Additionally, there was a poster session where the second-years presented their research. The program also made good use of the meal times to allow graduate women to network with other women (graduate students and professors) in the same area and at the same point of the academic progression.
It was incredible to be surrounded by and discuss research with so many women in computer science. (It was also somewhat overwhelming because I had never imagined there to be so many women in CS!) The dance party that took place the evening of the first day was also one of my most fun activities in recent times. I highly recommend attending this meeting*!
* There is also the Grace Hopper Celebration for women in CS in the fall.