The Anita Borg Institute Announces the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration ABIE Award Winners

The Anita Borg Institute (ABI), a non-profit organization focused on advancing women in computing, announced the winners of the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration ABIE Awards.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Each year, the Grace Hoper Celebration ABIE Awards give the technology community the opportunity to honor female leaders in the categories of technical leadership, social impact, international change agent, innovative teaching practices, and faculty member emerging leadership.

ABI will celebrate the ABIE Award winners at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, to be held at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona on October 8-10.

“The ABIE Awards highlight the inspiring stories and extraordinary contributions of women in technology at the largest gathering of technical women in the world,” said Telle Whitney, ABI’s president and CEO.

 “Women in technology are making great strides in their research and their impact in their respective fields and we are proud to celebrate these women and acknowledge their achievements at our Grace Hopper Celebration this year.”

The winners are nominated by their peers, and chosen by a panel of fellow technologists and past ABIE Award winners based on their extraordinary commitment to excellence, progress, and creative problem-solving. The GHC2014 ABIE Award Winners in their respective categories include:

Technical Leadership ABIE Award Winner

The Technical Leadership ABIE Award recognizes women technologists who demonstrate leadership through their contributions to technology and achievements in increasing the impact of women on technology. Dr. Anne Condon has made significant research contributions in computational complexity and bio-molecular computing. She is considered the world’sleading expert on DNA and RNA sequence design, and among the leading figures in DNA and RNA folding prediction. She has increased the numbers and success of women in computing research in the U.S. and Canada, both through flagship projects of CRA-W and through her own research supervision and mentoring.

Dr. Anne Condon is Professor and Head of the Department of ComputerScience at U. British Columbia. Her research in computational complexity and algorithms currently focuses on molecular programming. Anne held theNSERC/General Motors Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering,and received the Computing Research Association’s Habermann Award for outstanding contributions aimed at increasing the numbers and successes of women in computing research.

She is an ACM Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Social Impact ABIE Award Winner, underwritten by RMS

The Social Impact ABIE Award recognizes individuals who have made a positive impact on women, technology, and society. Ruthe Farmer has focused her efforts on increasing girls’ participation in technology and engineering since 2001. She is Chief Strategy & Growth Officer at theNational Center for Women & IT (NCWIT) and directs the NCWIT K-12Alliance.

Ruthe leads strategy and development at NCWIT and advocates nationally for young women in computing and K-12 computer science education access.

She led the national scale-up of the Aspirations in Computing talent pipeline initiative from a regional program serving just 34 young women in 2008 to afull pipeline talent development program serving over 2500 girls from middle school through college in 2014 and representing all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Change Agent ABIE Awards Winners, underwritten by Google

The Change Agent ABIE Awards recognize international women who have created opportunities for girls and women in technology abroad.

Barbara Birungi, Director of Hive Colab in Uganda is also the founder and Director of WITU (Women In Technology Uganda). Barbara Birungi founded WITU in 2010 to encourage, inspire and guide women in the tech field through networking, training, mentoring and partnering to increase the number of women in tech, reduce the gender gap, and improve the livelihoods of women in Uganda. WITU has taught over 500 young girls and contributed to more than 100 women finding tech jobs. Barbara is also the executive director of Hive Colab in Uganda, a business accelerator and incubator for East African Startups whose mission is to create a collaborative environment that promotes experimentation of scalable ideas with positive social and economic returns.

Durdana Habib, senior faculty member at the School of Electrical Engineering, National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences,Islamabad, Pakistan has motivated female engineering students to take up engineering careers. She participated as an active volunteer inWomen in Technology, a Task Force of the Technology Resource Mobilization unit under the Ministry of Science & Technology, Pakistan.

She has involved female faculty as well as professionals across public and private sector through the Women’s Forum, Interactive talks andWIE sessions at IEEE student Congresses. She is a mentor of thePakistan Women’s Forum (PWF) and is currently the Chair of the WIEAffinity Group, IEEE, Islamabad Section.

A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award Winner, underwritten by

Oracle Academy

The A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award recognizes educators for developing innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math.

Ayanna Howard is theMotorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology. In 2003, she was named to theMIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35. In 2008, she received worldwide attention for her SnoMote robots, designed to study the impact of global warming on theAntarctic iceshelfs. Ayanna is a robotics researcher, teacher, and mentor,who has engaged hundreds of female students in computing, engineering,and science through numerous K-12 outreach programs and summer camps.

Denice Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award Winner, underwritten by Microsoft

The Denice Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award recognizes a junior faculty member for high-quality research and significant positive impact on diversity.

Thamar Solorio is Assistant Professor, Department of Computer andInformation Sciences, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.An accomplished researcher, she is also an advocate for minorities in STEM fields. Thamar has led and contributed to a number of initiatives and outreach activities to increase the numbers of females and Hispanic students entering and completing a degree in computer science. She is currently redesigning a freshman-­‐‑level computer science course at UAB with the goal of improving the learning experience of students with different backgrounds as well as from minority groups.

GHC is the largest gathering of women technologists in the world. The theme of GHC this year is “Everyone. Everywhere.” and focuses on the ubiquity of computing in society today, and the need to include diverse groups in the innovation process. The event features sessions on cutting edge research,professional development, and technical innovation. This year’s distinguished speakers include Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; ShafiGoldwasser, RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT; Arati Prabhakar, Director of DARPA and Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College

About the Anita Borg Institute (ABI)

The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) connects, inspires, and guides women incomputing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategicimperative. Founded in 1997 by computer scientist Anita Borg, our reachextends to more than 53 countries. We believe technology innovation powersthe global economy, and that women are crucial to building technology theworld needs. As a social enterprise, we recognize women making positivecontributions, and advise organizations on how to improve performance bybuilding more inclusive teams. ABI partners include: Cisco, Google, HP,Microsoft, Thomson Reuters, Amazon, CA Technologies, Dell, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, First Republic Bank, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Juniper Networks, NationalScience Foundation, NetApp, SAP, Symantec, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich &Rosati, Bank of America, Broadcom, EMC, GoDaddy, LinkedIn, LockheedMartin, Nationwide, Neustar, Rackspace, Raytheon,,VentureLoop, VMware, Xerox and Yahoo! The Anita Borg Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 charitable organization. For more information, visit

Follow the Anita Borg Institute on Twitter at @anitaborg_org and become a fan.

Young women that define success in the society

Today, International Women’s Day, is a day the world acknowledges the role women play in the society on a large scale. I get to spend the day with some youngins from different girls high schools in Kenya at the Microsoft Digigirlz event.

Today, we focus on the girl child who could be a toddler, a teenager, a college student, a working class lady, a mother, a grandmother – all collectively making up the women in the society.
Being in the IT industry, I choose to highlight and appreciate a few women who have fought through odds to be where they are. They are an inspiration, not only to their peers but to other young girls in primary and high school.

I have known Fridah Oyaro for the last two and a half years in her capacity as both my student and a consultant( yes you heard that right). This aggressive young lady showed lots of interest for the Akirachix training program back in 2011. Coming from a very humble background, so humble that I once dropped her home and I almost turned back with her to my house. Interestingly this never deterred her, it was actually a source of motivation, and this led to her being the best student Akirachix class of 2013. It did not end there, her attitude and openness has led to enormous growth, and she is now among the best designers sought at the iHub, currently consulting with her alma mater – Akirachix. She is our in-house designer and a role model to the current Akirachix class. To know more about her and her work visit her profile here

I love working with young ladies and Wangechi Mwangi caught my eye back in 2011 when she was in her last year at Precious Blood Riruta. She is not only smart, but she is also aggressive and highly opinionated, the kind that believes in herself and will not see a problem go without a solution. We managed to safely secure Wangechi to the IT industry – she had earlier been thinking of being an economist and her parents were also encouraging her to take up medicine. Her parents had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she was going to “waste” her A’s on another career besides medicine. Nonetheless, she fought and secured herself a full scholarship at Strathmore to study BBIT. This course is an interesting blend to her new found interest in technology and passion for economics.Currently in 2nd year, she is already providing a challenge to other university students. She has teamed up with two fourth year students to start a virtual stocks trading platform called Valuraha, read more here. I once jokingly said, she might be our next college dropout turned billionaire; she has what it takes to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

“Never judge a book by it’s cover.”. Many a times, we meet people and make conclusions about them, which end up being wrong after interacting with the person. I met this young lady – Cynthia Abura back in 2012. From our visits to Precious blood for outreach, I had identified two girls who were really interested in technology and I knew the only way to keep this fire burning is mentoring them, keeping them engaged and showing them its possible to make it in the technology industry. Later in the year, I came across Google code-in competition for kids under the age of 17 through the Systers Network. I became curious and asked one of the two girls to give me a few of her classmates she thinks would be interested to participate. I got four and one of them was Cynthia. By the time she was coming out of high school she was a music student and her career path was in that direction. After signing them up for the competition, three of them would come to the iHub where we worked from, as the challenge was Internet based. Cynthia had to go to Uganda and see her parents and this meant she would miss out on mentorship – I was worried she would not continue with the competition but surprisingly among the four she was the best, even got a prize from Google. Read more about Google code-in 2012 here. Now this is ambition, passion and determination. Currently she is a first year student at University of Nairobi studying computer science and you will find her trying out other coding competitions and playing with new gadgets – she comes to play with my pair of Google glasses and is working on building an app for glass.

Today I celebrate these young women, they epitomise success in the society, inspire me and the rest of the AkiraChix team, and also give me hope that one day the ratio of men: women in technology will shift. It might take time, but we will get there, one Akirachic at a time.

Recapping the first Girl Rising Event

On 1st and 2nd November, Akirachix, in collaboration with Intel, held a training on how to use App Inventor for a group of about 25 girls. This was the first of a series of similar trainings to high school students, pre-University students, University Students and generally any girl interested in dipping her feet in the waters of code, and especially mobile programming.

The session began with a series of short talks from: Linda – Programs Director at Akirachix, Agatha -Software and Services group lead for Intel East Africa and Dorothy, the Communications and Public Affairs Manager for East and Francophone Africa at Google. Linda and Agatha introduced Akirachix and Intel to the girls and the Girl Rising Initiative. Dorothy’s talk was an inspirational one that was themed ‘Unencumbered’. Her aim was to help the girls a mindset of being unencumbered; living without perceived barriers and striving towards greatness.

Check out this cool video that introduced the training session. It goes a little bit like “Everyone in the world should know how to program…”

The training session was facilitated by John and Kelvin Yonga who took the girls through an overview of the App Inventor, assisted them through the installations, and did the conventional – built a hello world program! The proceeding session involved girls coming up with ideas of simple applications to develop. The ideas were presented and the developing began. The trainers had very few minutes to themselves after this part because of the numerous questions that were being asked by the trainees.

Busy bees

Day 2 was characterized by more questions and people finishing up on their applications. It was also marked by the showcasing of all the applications developed, and the gifting of students with certificates and goodies! Among the apps that were showcased, were music apps, SOS apps, breast cancer awareness app, an app on saving, pizza delivery app and many more. There was plenty of food, drink and snacks to go around for the two days.

At the end of the end of the training program, it was unanimously agreed that App Inventor is a great tool for introducing people to the world of mobile programming. However, everyone expressed interest in diving deeper to learn using tools like Eclipse and the Android SDK. How great! Some more feedback showed that the girls wanted longer training sessions, more advanced coding, training on database manipulation, and more on GUI.

Akirachix hopes to plan similar training sessions on a monthly basis to teach different skills and technologies. The aim is not only to increase numbers but to develop superior quality. We plan to have some of the girls who were trained to assist us in training girls from high school on how to use App Inventor later this month during our high school boot camp.

The event was concluded by a short talk from Rachel Gichinga and give-aways. Some of the words that stuck included: “Learn who you are and the best you”, “Be willing to accept failures and that you’re not good at some things”,  “Be cross-platform – think broad and be willing to be adventurous and discover new things. You never really know until you try.”

Group photo :)

We continue nurturing an army of geek girls…

Gearing up for Girl Rising

It is now 2 days to the much awaited Girl Rising Event. As mentioned earlier, this is a collaboration between Akirachix and Intel. It is a 2-day session that will see girls interested in code, create apps from scratch to finish using the Intel AppInventor tool! All preparations have been done and finalized. We are now anxiously waiting for Friday so that the magic can happen. We hope that the girls are half as excited as we are.

Below is a program for the 2 days:
Download Program for the Day

Lady droid

We encourage the participants to begin cooking up ideas so that when we meet, we just go full on geek-mode!

The process of nurturing an army of geeks continues…