News and notes from Google Down Under
Anita Borg Scholarship Finalists in Sydney
Monday, December 13, 2010
This is a guest post from Sarah Bull, 2010 Anita Borg Scholarship Winner. The Google Anita Borg Scholarship was established in 2004 to honor the legacy of Dr. Anita Borg and her efforts to encourage women to pursue careers in computer science and technology. For further information on this scholarship and how to apply, please go to
Google is a pretty exciting place.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent three days in Sydney with the nine other Australian Anita Borg Finalists for 2010, exploring Google and communicating with other women in technology. Through the bright beach-themed corridors, the Down Under room with table and chairs glued to the ceiling, the Google Sleep Pod and the cafe, we got an up close and personal view of life as a Googler in Sydney.
Anita Borg scholarship
brings women in technology together -- and for three days it was the default rather than the exception to be a woman studying computing. This year’s finalists hailed from universities in New Zealand, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney; our countries of origin included Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China and Australia; and our fields of study ranged from computerised language processing to interactive media to medical imaging to detect illness.
You might imagine there was a bit of debate. We’re still not sure which of our countries of birth has the smallest land area, but we’re working on it.
I think Anita Borg would have liked our group. Anita Borg’s life was one of achievement: when she saw a need she stepped forward, and began a conference through which women have come to see that they are not alone in computing, and that women's achievements in computing are meaningful. Our group realised a little part of that goal in Sydney, simply by being able to meet up and learn some strength (and maybe a little wisdom) from each other.
Anita Borg is worthy of recognition -- and excitingly she is not alone.
Sharon Perl, a Google software engineer since 2001, spoke with us about her long experience working for Google, her personal experiences as a woman balanced against her professional work as a researcher, and the joys and demands of practical research. Employees like Katie Bell spoke on the Google experience. We had practical talks about Google's App Engine and iPod programming; and talks on Google Maps and the exciting geometrical displays. Without diversity and adaptation it is impossible to keep pace with the forward motion of the world; I’m excited about the possibilities of that, and of the paths students like us will take in the future.
Impostor syndrome, we learned from one finalist, is the feeling that one does not deserve the success of accomplishment and the sense that others are more worthy of being there. As women in computer technology, we can feel like impostors compared to men who can feel more welcome in a male-dominated field. One of the most inspirational aspects of the trip for me was to learn the stories of other women.
The personal is political, some feminists say, and learning of each other's individual stories is important. I take as inspirational examples one woman studying after many setbacks and hardships imposed by others, and who has an eight-year-old daughter; or another in our group who is studying and raising a two-year-old child. One woman is inspiring for her involvement in women's programming networks and involvement with young girls learning the joys of computer science, and yet others for their passion for belly dancing and affection for the colour pink. We all have stories to share, and through that we encourage and learn from each other.
We travelled Sydney by ferry and cruise, and saw beaches and historical sites, plus sun, sand and … coffeeshops. Staying in the Menzies hotel, sharing rooms, drinking exotic cocktails with unusual names, travelling through Google Sydney, we learned a lot about each other: women in technology, supporting each other. I've been very happy to be an Anita Borg finalist and thoroughly encourage readers of this to apply!
Posted by Guest Blogger Sarah Bull, 2010 Anita Borg Scholarship Winner.
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