Grace Hopper virtual celebration: Cultivating real connections.

23 November, 2020

Mitra Best
Principal, Strategic Innovation & Technology, PwC US
Andrea Fishman
Principal, TMT Tech-Enabled Experience Transformation, PwC US

“Together we build”

“Together we build” was the theme of the virtual Grace Hopper Celebration (vGHC) this year — how ironic, and yet surprisingly fitting, for 2020. Historically, Grace Hopper has been an in-person celebration where one can assume “together” is in a ginormous conference expo hall. And that “we” are the women building products, solutions, relationships, and a new future for the world around us. Together.

“Together” has changed significantly since March 2020. The morning commute to the office has turned into steps from the coffee maker to the desk. Getting ready for work has transformed into a whole new meaning, and attire! The days of meeting new people on the walk to the watercooler and chatting with colleagues on a break have disappeared. 

So when planning for a virtual Grace Hopper Celebration began, we weren’t sure what to expect. How would we continue to broaden the sisterhood network of PwC women in technology? How would we show up as a technology employer of choice without the 20 foot tall chair, welcoming everyone to a seat at our table? How would we effectively welcome recruits to our community? How would they feel? How could we tell? Could we redefine what it means to be “together”?

These questions sat with us and the team as we began our vGHC planning efforts. In amazement, we were joined by a large group of TechWomen from across the firm and across the country who raised their virtual hands to join building PwC’s presence at vGHC, dedicating talent, skills, insights and time. 

For those of you who have never been, Grace Hopper is the largest celebration of women technologists in the world, with nearly 30,000 attendees annually. PwC collaborates with Anita B.org to come together around the value and mission of inclusion and diversity in the tech sector. Participating in the celebration is not just an invitation to recognize the accomplishments and growth of how far we have come; but also an investment in our future, built on diversity, equity and inclusion.

So now, with our 2020 reality, how do we reimagine the definition of “together”?

By pivoting. By being creative. By recognizing that our community is stronger than the distance. With almost 200 PwC partners and staff in attendance, we joined video coffee chats with 1,000 potential candidates, resulting in a recruiting pipeline of top talent. Our PwC TechWomen spoke vulnerably and genuinely about their journeys in the tech field through four virtual panels. Our sisterhood bond strengthened through daily debrief connectivity events, and networking sessions. We were in awe of the passion exuding from the smiling faces on the other side of the screen.

Innovative problem solving doesn’t happen without a team built on trust -- why we call ours a sisterhood. We put our hair in helicopter buns on Friday afternoons and work together until the last minute of a long week. We listen to the most junior person on our team when she is passionate about the importance of now. We trust our team manager to be our fearless leader. We share funny videos. We laugh with each other. We are honest when times are hard, because we trust one another. We show up for each other. We empower and support one another. We build cool technologies together. And we have proven this to be the new definition of “together.”

Rebuilding the definition and culture of “together” is no easy task. But — “together we build.”