After one of tech’s biggest conferences for women postponed its career fair, attendees organized their own with recruiters from companies like Apple and Google
- Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), one of the largest conferences for women in tech, recently postponed its annual career fair due to technical difficulties.
- Many students rely on the career fair as a way to land jobs and internships at some of the biggest tech companies like Apple and Google.
- In response, some attendees have come together to arrange an alternative option for candidates and recruiters to connect.
- Companies like Dropbox, are also hosting their own live interactive networking events and 1:1 chats to meet conference attendees and recruit diverse candidates.
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The Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is one of the largest conferences for women in tech.
The event boasts more than 30,000 participants and over 300 partners from major tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. One of the main draws of the event is its annual career fair, which connects women directly with recruiters.
This year the event, which is taking place from September 29 to October 2, went virtual for the first time in its 20-year history. But three days before the conference was set to begin, the GHC’s host organization, The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, (AnitaB.org), announced that the career fair would be postponed due to technical difficulties.
“We are devastated that spontaneous connections and real time technical knowledge-sharing may be significantly limited or unavailable, and therefore not up to our community’s expectations,” AnitaB.org said in an email to conference participants.
A major disappointment
For many of the conference’s participants, the career fair is the highlight of the event. The fair serves as an opportunity to connect women across the country – this year, across the globe – with tech employers in an otherwise male-dominated industry. And after waves of layoffs caused by the pandemic, the stakes are even higher for many women who have lost jobs.
AnitaB.org said in a statement provided to Business Insider that they would reschedule the fair before the end of 2020, but have not yet announced an official date. AnitaB.org also facilitated a partial career fair session on September 29 for furloughed or laid off women in tech.
Ava Robinson, 21, a computer science student at Northwestern University, attended the GHC last year. Robinson said that the convention allows students to connect with recruiters that they otherwise would not have the opportunity to meet. This year, she said the last-minute postponement of the career fair came as a major disappointment.
“We’re just really disappointed,” Robinson said. “The point of this conference is supposed to support women in computing, but it didn’t really feel that way when they were like, ‘Okay, we’re just going to drop this bomb on you.'”
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Now, attendees are taking it into their own hands and hosting alternative career fairs to help women find roles at some of the nations largest tech companies.
An alternative solution
As soon as the news broke about the postponed fair, Kate Chen, GHC attendee and Duke student, and Helena Merk, cofounder of 1:1 video conference platform Glimpse, decided to arrange an alternative for candidates and recruiters to virtually connect.
Within hours of their announcement in the GHC Facebook group, they received more than a thousand comments from students who wanted to participate and immediate interest from companies, some of which weren’t planning on coming to the conference.
“I think just the prospect of being able to meet, at the time when we were talking to companies, even just a thousand amazing women in tech is such a draw for companies nowadays,” Chen said. “I feel like as a society, we especially recognize now that diversity is so important, especially in the tech workforce.”
The alternate career fair took place over three days, with around 10,000 candidates registered and more than 70 companies represented, such as Brex, Lyft, Codecademy, and Y Combinator startups. On Glimpse, students were able to input their individual preferences in company size, type, and roles. Based on that information, recruiters accepted or rejected meetings with candidates. Students and recruiters could exchange social media profiles, share links, chat, or add time.
“The talent was there, the need was there, and we were able to facilitate it in a quick way,” Chen said.
Just two weeks prior, Chen and Merk held a remote Diversity in Tech career fair to match 280 Duke students with 25 companies, and they were confident they could successfully do it again.
The challenges of hosting a virtual event
Chen and Merk were initially apprehensive about hosting a virtual fair of this scale. But they said “a huge success point” for them was learning how to “reimagine” a virtual career fair instead of “recreating” it.
“We’re reimagining it to have the same functionality and successes, but just online,” Chen said. “It doesn’t have to be the exact same format as it was in person.”
In general, creating a successful virtual career fair or recruiting event is a challenge, experts previously told Business Insider. It’s often unclear how many people will attend, and it can be hard to create engaging content.
But there are some advantages. For example, employers can move quickly, without having to worry about booking event spaces. Job seekers don’t have to line up for hours at a career fair to speak with one or two recruiters. And the scope of job seekers who might be able to attend also increases exponentially.
Robinson, the computer science student from Northwestern, said while it’s been a challenge to connect with recruiters outside of a formalized setting, it’s still possible to land roles. She recommends finding conference-specific postings, getting in contact with recruiters directly on LinkedIn, and putting a face to your name.