Systers, founded by Anita Borg, is an international electronic mailing list for technical women in computing. The Syster community strives to increase the number of women in computer science and improve work environments for women.[1] The mailing list has operated since 1987, making it the oldest of its kind for women in computer science.[2] It is likely the largest email community of women in computing.[1] The name 'Systers' originated from the combination of the words systems and sisters.


Systers was formed by Anita Borg in 1987 after a discussion with women at the Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP) in Austin.[3][4] At the conference, Borg got the email addresses of 20 of the women attending and created Systers.[3] The name came from combining systems with sisters.[5] The administrator of Systers was Borg, who was called by users "her Systers' keeper."[3] It was the first worldwide community for women working in the field of computer science.[3] The group spread by word of mouth, growing to around 2,000 members in the mid 1990s.[4] The group was accused of practicing "reverse discrimination" by others in 1993.[6] Borg defended the group as a way for women who were often cut off from one another in the field to connect with one another.[6] Many women didn't even have other women in their own workplaces.[7] It was refreshing to find a space where women were not "drowned out by the voices of men."[8] The size of the group led Borg to create a system, called MECCA, which would allow members to opt in and out of various discussion topics.[4] Later, the list would move to web-based technology.[6] By 2004, women from 53 different countries were participating.[9] Systers also influenced other similar mailing lists.[6]

As of 2012, more than 3000 members were subscribing to the Systers' mailing list. Previously, the mailing list was maintained by Her Systers' Keeper, Robin Jeffries, from 2000 to 2012.[1] The next Systers' Keeper was Rosario Robinson.[10][11] During #GHC18 at Houston Texas, it was announced that Zaza Soriano will be the new Systers' Keeper.

Systers 25th Anniversary[edit]

In 2012, Systers celebrated its 25th anniversary with Global Meet Ups[12][13] and a celebration at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.[14]


Systers was developed as an electronic mailing list for women working in computer science.[3] It is one of the oldest communities for women in computer science.[15] Women using the list must stay on topic (discussion women and computer science) and they are expected to treat each other with respect.[6] Members are expected to be supportive of other members and topics discussed generally relate to women in computing.[7][16] A notable exception was a 1992 discussion of a Barbie doll, whose recorded phrases included "Math class is tough!" Systers was credited as influential in persuading Mattel to remove the phrase.[17][18] Other topics that have been covered included strategies for childcare on the job or at conferences, dealing with harassment both online and at work and technical questions.[19] Women were able to ask questions about various topics and receive timely answers from their peers.[20] Women also shared jokes about working in the computing or engineering fields.[21] Other lists that have "spun off" from Systers are researcHers, system-entrepreneurs and a list for recent doctoral graduates.[4]

The Systers list runs on GNU Mailman. Systers members and Google Summer of Code participants customized the code to meet Systers' needs.[22]

Anita Borg Systers Pass-It-On Awards Program[edit]

The Pass-It-On Awards program provides monetary support for women entering fields in technology through donations by women established in technological fields.[23][24] The award honor's Anita Borg's vision of a network of women that support each other. Awards from $500.00 to $1000.00 USD are funded by online donations from the Systers community.

Founding members[edit]

Systers was founded in 1987 by Anita Borg and several other women who attended a Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP) conference.[25][26]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "Systers - Anita Borg Institute". Anita Borg Institute. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  2. ^ "Recoding Gender". Recoding Gender. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kadaba, Lini S. (30 May 1995). "Cybersisters Who Order Men to Buzz Off Their Network". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2018-10-25 – via and "Where Women Find Comfort in Cyberspace". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 30 May 1995. Retrieved 2018-10-25 – via
  4. ^ a b c d Jeffries, Robin (2006-09-01). "Systers: The Electronic Community for Women in Computing". CRN. 18 (4). Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  5. ^ "Web Resources". WE!. 1 April 2003. Archived from the original on 25 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018 – via HighBeam Research.
  6. ^ a b c d e Lambert, Laura; Poole, Hilary W.; Woodford, Chris; Moschovitis, Christos J. P. (2005). The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 28–30. ISBN 9781851096596.
  7. ^ a b Abbate, Janet (2014-01-10). Gender in Academic Computing: Alternative Career Paths and Norms: A BIT of Recoding Gender. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262319409.
  8. ^ Camp 1996, p. 115.
  9. ^ "Systers Are Doin'it". Herizons. 1 January 2004. Archived from the original on 25 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018 – via HighBeam Research.
  10. ^ Huger, Jen Wike (10 March 2014). "Google's coding internship summer program reaches 10th year". Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  11. ^ "#TechSistasTalk Episode 2: In conversation with Rosario Robinson, Her Systers Keeper from…". Medium. 2018-09-02. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  12. ^ Systers 25th anniversary
  13. ^ Anita Borg: Systers Meetups
  14. ^ Anita Borg: RockIT Science and Systers 25th Anniversary Celebration
  15. ^ "Tech Expert Pushes for Diversity in Field". Charleston Daily Mail. 20 March 2000. Archived from the original on 25 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018 – via HighBeam Research.
  16. ^ "Top Companies for Women Technologists - FAQ - Anita Borg Institute". Anita Borg Institute. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  17. ^ Hafner, Katie (2003-04-10). "Anita Borg, 54, Trailblazer For Women in Computer Field". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  18. ^ Camp 1996, p. 120.
  19. ^ Camp 1996, p. 117.
  20. ^ Camp 1996, p. 118.
  21. ^ Camp 1996, p. 119.
  22. ^ terriko (2012-03-26). "GF Classifieds: Google Summer of Code 2012 edition". Geek Feminism Blog. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  23. ^ Anita Borg: Pass-It-On Awards
  24. ^ "College of Computing". Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  25. ^ anitasquilt (2012-09-06). "25 Years of Systers". Anita's Quilt - Threads of Inspiration. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  26. ^ "Founding Systers - Anita Borg Institute". Anita Borg Institute. Retrieved 2017-02-16.


External links[edit]