Men accused of lying about their gender to attend women’s tech job fair

A recent tech conference that was supposed to be a safe space for women and nonbinary people in STEM fields was reportedly infiltrated by a large number of cisgender men who claimed to be nonbinary in order to get access to the event and its opportunities.

What is the Grace Hopper Celebration?

The Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is an annual event organized by AnitaB, a nonprofit organization that supports women and underrepresented groups in technology. The GHC is named after Grace Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist and naval officer who invented the first compiler and popularized the term “bug” for a computer error.

The GHC is billed as the largest gathering of women and nonbinary technologists in the world, with more than 30,000 attendees in 2019. The event features keynote speakers, panel discussions, workshops, networking sessions, and a career fair and expo where attendees can meet with recruiters from leading tech companies.

The GHC aims to provide a platform for women and nonbinary people to showcase their achievements, learn from each other, and advance their careers in STEM fields. According to AnitaB, the GHC also helps to increase the visibility and representation of women and nonbinary people in technology, as well as to inspire the next generation of female and nonbinary innovators.

Men accused of lying about their gender to attend women’s tech job fair

How did men invade the GHC?

The 2021 GHC was held from September 26 to 29 in Orlando, Florida. It was the first in-person GHC since 2019, as the 2020 edition was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event attracted about 10,000 attendees, who paid around $1,300 per ticket.

However, many attendees were shocked and outraged to see scores of cisgender men at the event, especially at the career fair and expo. Cisgender men are men whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. They are not part of the intended audience of the GHC, which is for women and nonbinary people only.

According to some attendees, many of these men lied about their gender identity when they registered for the event, claiming to be nonbinary in order to get access to the GHC. Nonbinary people are people who do not identify as exclusively male or female. They are welcome at the GHC as part of the underrepresented groups in technology.

Some attendees also alleged that these men took advantage of discounted academic tickets that were meant for students and faculty members. They also accused them of skipping all the educational and inspirational sessions and going straight for the recruiter booths, where they handed out resumes and competed for job opportunities with women and nonbinary people.

Some attendees even reported that these men were rude, aggressive, and disrespectful towards other attendees, pushing and shoving them in order to get ahead in the lines. Some also said that these men made inappropriate comments and jokes about women and nonbinary people at the event.

How did AnitaB respond?

AnitaB acknowledged the issue and apologized for it on September 27. Cullen White, the chief impact officer of AnitaB, addressed the attendees at the GHC and called out the cisgender men who lied about their gender identity.

“Simply put, some of you lied when you registered. And as evidenced by the stacks and stacks of resumes you’re passing out, you did so because you thought you could come here and take space to try and get a job,” White said.

White also said that these men took interview slots that were supposed to go to women and nonbinary attendees, who are still minorities in STEM fields. He urged them to stop doing so and respect the purpose of the GHC.

“So, let me be perfectly clear: Stop,” White said. “We need male allies; we need men who want to celebrate women, work with and for women. So, we welcome men in this space—to learn and support and improve.”

AnitaB also issued a statement on its website, saying that it was “deeply disappointed” by what happened at the GHC. It said that it would review its registration process and policies to prevent such incidents from happening again. It also said that it would continue to work towards creating a more inclusive and diverse tech industry.

“We remain committed to our mission of creating a future where those who imagine and build technology mirror those who use it,” AnitaB said.

How did attendees react?

Many attendees expressed their frustration and anger over what happened at the GHC on social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok. They shared videos and photos of cisgender men at the event, as well as their personal experiences of being harassed or ignored by them.

Some attendees said that they felt cheated and betrayed by these men, who took away their chances of getting jobs or internships at tech companies. They also said that they felt unsafe and uncomfortable at an event that was supposed to be a supportive environment for them.

Some attendees also criticized AnitaB for not doing enough to prevent or address the issue. They said that AnitaB should have verified the gender identity of registrants before allowing them to attend the event. They also said that AnitaB should have enforced stricter rules and consequences for those who violated the code of conduct of the GHC.

Some attendees, however, also praised AnitaB for acknowledging and apologizing for the issue. They said that AnitaB did its best to handle a difficult situation and that they appreciated its efforts to create a space for women and nonbinary people in technology.

Some attendees also said that they still enjoyed and benefited from the GHC, despite the presence of cisgender men. They said that they learned a lot from the speakers, panelists, and mentors at the event. They also said that they made valuable connections and friendships with other women and nonbinary people at the event.

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