Were you at PyCon? Did you stop by the Geek Feminism Hackerspace? What did you think of the talks? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
I have spent the past weekend in Sydney attending PyCon AU, the second Australian conference for the Python programming language. It’s only the second time this conference has been held, but attendance grew by 50% (from 200 to 300) and to my mind, the programme was noticably better as well. (I might be biased though, as I appeared in it.)
However by far the most cheering aspect to me was the extent to which the organisers made efforts to make it a women-friendly event. They had diversity grants to attract women who would not otherwise be able to attend. They had a code of conduct, announced it each morning, and reiterated it when they informed delegates that they had had to enforce it. They announced a ‘women in Python’ breakfast as part of their schedule. And they invited two women keynotes: Audrey Roy of PyLadies, and GF’s own Mary Gardiner of the Ada Initiative, both organisations that support women in software development, more-or-less broadly.
Their efforts paid off: women’s attendance increased from 10 last year (5%), to 35 this year (11.6%).
It made a visceral difference to my experience: instead of glancing around and finding myself the only woman in a room, this year there was always women in my line of sight. It was so nice to talk to many different women from all over the country and find out how they are using Python. It’s so nice to have conversations where you know for sure that you are ordinary rather than exceptional. I mean literally, being viewed as an exception. It’s so nice to know you can confess all you don’t know, without feeling that you might be [http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Stereotype_threat ruining the reputation of women everywhere].
While I understand that there are many issues with women in IT/SE, I wonder if so many groups for women results in exclusion.
It’s not clear to me what kind of exclusion @fphhotchips is concerned about. Men missing out on their fair share of geeky conversations with women? That would be disappointing I suppose, although those conversations can happen at any time during the conference. But the flipside is an order of magnitude more important: most women in software developer roles in Australia miss out every single day on the chance to see themselves reflected amongst their peers and their seniors. Reflected in numbers that cannot be reduced to an enumerable number of individuals: that is, the feeling of 10 is different to the feeling of 35. More, as they say, is different.
Maybe once a month, at a “girl geek” event, or once a year at a women-focused event at a conference, can technical women enjoy relief from a mental burden that they may not even consciously realise they are carrying. It is not the world’s hugest burden by any measure, but it exists, and can keep us self-silencing, self-doubting, and generally takes away our energy from changing the world, or at least making the next release deadline.
When the burden is lifted, we can enjoy a brief respite called freedom. Freedom to admit mistakes. Freedom to not have to wonder if someone reacted some particular way because you’re a woman. Freedom to compliment someone on their cute bag without being seen as frivolous or invoking an unwanted reminder to others that you are a woman. Freedom to enjoy the norms of speech that women more commonly (but not exclusively) follow, like turn-taking. Freedom to make a (radical!) feminist comment without hurting anyone’s ego. Freedom to not represent 50% of the population. And I am not even getting into the much heavier burdens that some women bear, with actively hostile workplaces, harassment, the need to conceal aspects of themselves for their own safety.
Freedom to look around and see people like you. For some of us it comes around more often than others. If you see an event for women happening and feel left out, just chill out and remember we’ll soon enough be back to our usual distribution. And remember that we, as presumably you do too, want most of all to not need to hold such events. And when we are more, we will not.
Gloria W asked us to post this information about a grant available for women who wish to attend PyCon, a major Python convention being held in Atlanta, Georgia in February.
I am happy as hell to announce that this grant exists. The deadline is Dec. 18th, and I strongly encourage you to apply.
This conference gets a bit bigger each year, but the organizers make a great effort to keep the small conference feel. It also has many level-100 tutorials, and is both socially and technically welcoming for py-newbies.
Open space sessions (everything from software development to Settlers) and poster sessions happen every night, tutorials run two days prior, and code sprints run for a few days after the conference. It promises to be a great learning and social experience you should not miss.
I am reserving a room and sharing it: http://us.pycon.org/2010/registration/room_sharing/
Iâ€™ll room with as many as possible, to cut costs for everyone. Bring a sleeping bag :)
See you there,
- Rikki Kite interviews Juliet Kemp and Ellen Siever (both authors of Linux books)
- Â¡Bienvenidos a la Boca del Infierno! — where are the Latino/as in Buffy? Also, check out the new blog SciFi Latino for some other writing on the subject.
- A PyCon program committee volunteer reflects: Catherine Devlin on her experience reviewing, accepting, and regretfully rejecting talks for the upcoming Python conference.
- The women behind the FSF’s Women in Free Software summit have created a mailing list to encourage women speakers at free software events.
- Computer Weekly’s WITsend blog has an article, Calling all men who tech — time to speak out for female colleagues.
- The New York Times Interactive team have hired their first female developer, Jacqui Maher. The Observer reports on it (slightly skeezily).
- Amazon CTO Werner Vogels shows a gratuitous sexy lady slide in his keynote at LISA ’09. Beable reports: He didn’t remember why the slide was there, but “hey, she was hot”. Werner quickly apologises, saying “I fully support the statements you made that this is not acceptable.” Quickest, least painful conference incident ever!
- Some gaming-related posts of note: F.A.G.S (and Cole Hamel!) says random grenades are for pussies, and from the Iris Network, Mixed reactions: even progress comes with sexist dynamics.
- An interesting post on the proportion of women scientists at NASA (less than 10%, it turns out.)
- Michelle Khine of UC Merced couldn’t afford the specialized equipment used to make microfluidic chips so she made her own out of Shrinky Dinks.
- Two logs from Ubuntu Open Week’s open sessions: Women in Open Source: Issues and Women in Open Source: Encouragement. The latter is moderated by our own Mackenzie “Maco” Morgan, and GF is mentioned in both.
If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if youâ€™re a delicious user, tag them â€œgeekfeminismâ€ to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.
- Anna Martelli Ravenscroft reviews the common reasons why women don’t submit talks to conferences and urges women Pythonistas to submit to PyCon.
- Mel Chua talks about androgyny and womanhood online in Hi. My name is Mel, and Iâ€™m femaleâ€¦ and feminist. She’s also taking Emma Jane Hogbin’s suggestion to create an award for girls in tech.
- The Ontario Linux Fest is looking for more female speakers
- No matter how “positive” and action-oriented your feminist deed is, there’s srsly always backlash.Â Sigh.
- Gender shouldn’t matter has an illustration of the gender balance in FOSS and some FAQs.
- Our own K. Tempest Bradford is standing up for Sisko and Janeway, and inspires Claire Light to explain why Voyager rocked.
If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if youâ€™re a delicious user, tag them â€œgeekfeminismâ€ to bring them to our attention.