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Grace Hopper Celebration of Women 2018: Solving the Technology escape room riddle…one step at a time

Great Aunt Dotty’s intention was for my family to inherit her estate, but her executor just told us that in her final days, she decided to leave her everything to her cats. Wait, what?! The will is nowhere to be found and the clock is ticking. Can we find it in time to ensure we receive our inheritance?  

In 2017, my family tried our first escape room. When the time came, the four of us were locked into a room with no idea of what to expect. Finding Great Aunt Dotty’s Will started the escape room obsession for my competitive family.

After carefully listening to a video that detailed the task at hand, it didn’t take long for chaos to ensue. Before we could stop ourselves, we collectively started to investigate the room, calling out suggestions such as “Here is a lock.” and “I found a puzzle piece.” or “There is a symbol on this wall.”  Presented with the same set of clues, our interpretations, and potential solutions were all different. Adding to this pressure was the ever-present ticking clock. Luckily for us, we soon realized collaboration was essential if we were ever to solve the mystery at hand.  Ultimately our success was driven by the diverse experiences we brought to the table. By becoming active participants, we were able to listen to each other, use our different perspectives to our advantage, work as a team and win the day!

Drawing parallels – the tech way

One of the first rules of an escape room is no technology. A concept foreign to many of us today. Phones are strictly prohibited. There are no tools allowed. It’s back to basics. But now I reflect on the situation, I find myself wondering…. is it really?

For example, creating an escape room requires a mix of design, storytelling, and engineering. In the tech world, game theory and algorithms are used to create workflow and invent challenges. In an escape room, puzzles are often sequential (meaning you need to solve one problem to unlock the next step) similar to traversing the lines of a computer program.  In Aunt Dotty’s Dining room there was one lock with three numbers, but the sequence we were trying to find a home for had four numbers. Stack overflow, anyone?  From debugging programs to monitoring our applications….I could find an escape room parallel within the Technology sector for both and more.

If you can read, listen and work as a team, you are a great candidate for an escape room experience meaning men and women of all ages are equally qualified for a career in computing. Yet today, approximately 25% of technology roles in the U.S. are filled by women.

An escape room with a difference?

From September 26-28, 2018, over 20,000 people (mostly women) will attend the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing (GHC2018) founded by the Anita Borg Institute. All attendees are trying to solve the same puzzle which has stumped businesses and academia for years: How can we enable a future where the people who imagine and build technology reflect the people and societies for whom they build it?

GHC2018 attendees will be provided with the support network and tools to solve this mystery, but unlike Finding Great Aunt Dotty’s Will, this puzzle cannot be solved within a locked room and a given time limit. To advance the solution, it will require attendees to leverage their tools and networks on the outside and despite this – it is likely to be years before women are represented equally within the Technology sector.

Thomson Reuters continues its support for attracting, retaining, and advancing women in Technology by being a Pioneering Partner of AnitaB.org and a gold sponsor of the Grace Hopper Celebration.  Our commitment to solving the puzzle includes a pledge from our CEO Jim Smith committing to a goal of 40% representation of women in senior leadership roles by 2020. This and programs and initiatives, such as girls-only Coder Dojos days, a global mentoring program, Girls make Games and our Women in Technology employee network are just some of the things we are doing to progress women in Technology.

In 2017, Thomson Reuters female representation in leadership increased to 32 percent, an 8.5 percent increase over four years.

Increasing the number of women who enjoy a career in technology has been a difficult puzzle indeed. As our executive vice president and chief people office Mary-Alice Vuicic said recently, “there is still much to do on improving equality in the workplace”.

Twenty thousand people gathering together at Grace Hopper to achieve this common goal gives me hope that a solution is achievable. 

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About the Grace Hopper Celebration 

The Grace Hopper Celebration is the world's largest gathering of women technologists. The three-day event features presentations by leading tech experts, educational programs, abundant networking, career opportunities with top technology companies, and much more. In addition to sending more than 100 employee representatives, Thomson Reuters is sending recruiters, eight employee speakers and is supporting the conference as a gold sponsor once again. 

About Lisa Schlosser

Lisa Schlosser is chief technology officer for FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business providing digital marketing solutions for law firms and FindLaw.com, home to the largest online legal directory of lawyers. Fostering a dynamic and customer-centric work culture, she collaborates closely with the business to build innovative solutions. Lisa has over 25 years of experience in information technology, holding several programming and leadership positions throughout her career. She earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Lisa believes strongly in volunteerism and was elected as a board member of the Minnesota High Tech Association in January 2010 and vice-chair in 2015, as well as board member of the Science Museum of Minnesota in December 2015. In addition, since May 2015, she has served on the board of the Anita Borg Institute, a social enterprise focused on the advancement of women in computing and founder of the Grace Hopper Celebration. She is involved with many efforts in the community to promote students in STEM careers and women in technology and has also appeared on an episode of Driving Change.

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