Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Cost of Being a Woman in CS

A paper of mine was accepted at AlgoSensors, which will be held in conjunction with ICALP this July. I'll post a summary and copy once the camera-ready version is finished. Right now, I'm working on the logistics of getting to and staying in Rhodes, Greece, an exciting but expensive location. The problem with staying at this conference, as with any conference, is that as a woman in computer science it's hard to find a roommate. The chance that another woman from your school is going is extremely small, since the chance that you're not the only woman in theory in your department is small to begin with. Perhaps this is why all the female students I talked to at STOC were staying with people they knew in the local area, while most of the male students were sharing hotel rooms. Were female students without local connections unable to afford to come? Knowing women from other schools due to the women in computer science conferences helps, but certainly doesn't solve, this problem. And so going to conferences costs (my advisor) more money than it should - more money than it would if I were male.

There is a simple solution to this problem. And, as in the case with many changes I advocate with women in mind, it would help men too (in addition to our advisors' budgets). CRA or ACM could put up an online conference roommate finding board. If one exists, I couldn't find it. Perhaps one of you has the ear of the right person...

In the meantime, if any of you know (or are) a woman going to ICALP and looking for a roommate for the nights of July 8th - 11th, please send her my way.

14 comments:

Warren said...

Even males sometimes have trouble finding roommates by word of mouth, especially males at smaller schools. Many conferences offer a roommate finding board (STOC 2009 did) but others do not. Your suggestion of a centralized roommate matching board, which would ensure that roommate matching is available at all conferences, sounds like a good one.

Such a service need not have ACM involvement. The simplest supporting software would probably be some sort of forum software. Procedure to use: each conference gets a thread. People post requests in the thread and delete their request once they're no longer looking. Once the conference is over an admin can delete the whole thread to preserve privacy.

There appear to be free hosted forum services, such as www.proboards.com, but I haven't used any. Setting this up would probably take under half an hour, so probably someone should just do it.

sorelle said...

Warren - I've considered that, and it's certainly a possibility if one of the larger organizations doesn't want to host it. My thinking was that there would be greater visibility/use and therefore greater chance of finding a roommate if it was hosted by CRA or ACM.

Le Bouc said...

Sharing a room with someone of a different gender shouldn't be more uncomfortable than sharing a room with a stranger. If you're willing to do so, it'd open more possibilities.

Warren said...

Sorelle: would creating an unofficial service increase or decrease the chances of ACM or CRA creating an official service? My guess is that it would increase the chances, so the best way to get there (official service) from here is to create an unofficial service. The unofficial route would also be much more likely to get you a roommate before you go to Greece. If the theory bloggers announce it an unofficial service could get a lot of attention overnight.

Le Bouc: finding roommates would still be an annoyance even if everyone were willing to room with anyone (which is unlikely). Mixed gender rooms may be a good option in some circumstances when there are an odd number of men and an odd number of women looking for roommates, but it's not really a solution.

Anonymous said...

Sorelle, as a woman in CS, I have suffered thru the same problem as well. Here's my advice -- just write to other women you know in the community, and ask if they might be willing to share a room. I actually found this a fabulous opportunity to meet other people in the community and network; particularly, if your roommate is a little more senior, this is also a wonderful opportunity to be mentored. Good luck !

Anonymous said...

FYI, back in the days when graduate students were not so spoiled, graduate students of different genders used to share hotel rooms.

Nitish said...

As a male student going to ICALP, I think I'll have to take a single room, as well. (At least, I don't know of anyone I could share with. Anyone looking for a roommate? I'll be there from the 5th to the 10th.) I agree this problem is almost always worse for women, though... a roommate finding board would be a great idea!

Also, have you figured out how to get to Rhodes yet? Flying seems very expensive, so I was considering taking a ferry or something from Athens. But many of the websites listed in the Sealines sections have various problems.

Alex McFerron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex McFerron said...

I'm a woman and one time I posted to a conference room share listing that I wouldn't mind sharing a room with a guy since I badly needed a room-share and honestly, I don't care. I explained the situation and I found a roommate. Yeah. But, then the guy got really mad when he found out i was a woman and he left me with the entire bill by bailing on me just before the conference. I think he failed to read my post and perhaps my name confused him.

Anyway, i think a matching board is a great idea. It would really help out and make these conferences more do-able.

bil gasarch said...

Another ADVANTAGE of a roommate
matchting service is that you get to meet NEW people in your field.
Might even do some full profs some good.

Anonymous said...

I've had the same problem, I'm female and I didn't want to spend all the extra money for single rooms. I also didn't like the thought of being more expensive than a male grad student. So I simply shared with guys I knew from my department and (once I knew more people) from other departments as well. That has never been a problem and I must have shared rooms like this more than 10 times. (O.k., one of our secretaries thought I had interesting moral standards, but eventually I got it across to her as well that this was simply a practical solution to difficult matching problem.)

Bettina

Anonymous said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/8085011.stm

Anonymous said...

Do be grateful to have any funding to attend the conference to begin with!

sorelle said...

Oh, of course! Apparently that doesn't go without saying as I thought it did...