Numerical Analysis was the class I had in college where the connection between my passion for mathematics and the potential for computer science came together. Maybe it was because I understood, much like Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, non-linear thinking and how it could be applied to real world situations. But where Annie was concerned with baseball, I just wanted to solve problems and a computer was one way to make that efficient. At that time, the number of women graduating with degrees in computer science was above 35 percent. Today that number is in the range of 14-18 percent..

What happened?

This week, I’m attending the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing here in Houston, a gathering named after Admiral Grace Hopper, who is credited with inventing the first compiler. She popularized the idea of machine independent programming languages, which lead to the development of COBOL. We often think of nanoseconds as an abstract unit of time – too small to really care much about. Admiral Hopper helped her students visualize a nanosecond by using a copper wire about a foot long, illustrating the maximum distance electricity can travel in one nanosecond and simplifying the importance of something seemingly so small in computer programming.

At the event that bears her name, which is supported by the Anita Borg Institute, more than 12,000 women, students, professors and industry technologists – and more than 1,000 companies – from more than 70 countries, are here to affirm the notion that women are vital to building technology and driving the innovation that the world needs.

I am proud to say that my company, Thomson Reuters, is a Platinum Sponsor of the event, and we are at the celebration as participants, executives, recruiters, bloggers, sponsors, presenters and thought leaders. But perhaps more important, we are here as ambassadors of an organization that supports the mission of the Grace Hopper Celebration with its own commitment to diversity in the workplace. We drive innovation, gain competitive advantage and deliver results for our customers when we empower ethnically, racially and gender-diverse teams.

Thomson Reuters has an incessant desire to provide the best solutions to our customers. To do that, as technologists, we get to solve amazing, challenging, fun and non-linear problems every day. The Grace Hopper Celebration is a key program to increase the retention and advancement of our women technologists, as well as help us increase our pipeline of new gender diverse recruits.

I cannot help but reflect on Admiral Hopper’s foot of copper wire. If achieving gender diversity equality in the computer science field is represented by the length of that wire, we are less than a quarter of the way there and arguably have gone backwards during the span of my career in technology.

That said, being here along with 12,000 fellow women technologists gives me hope.

This post was written by Lisa Schlosser, CTO and vice president, FindLaw. She can be reached on Twitter @LMSchlosser

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