News & Events,  Opinion

Geek Girls Unite

I recently attended BarCampRDU for the first time. I’m not going to go into detail explaining the concept behind this event but in a few words it’s a tech-heavy un-conference that takes place annually in the Raleigh area.

It was a great event. Circumstances being what they were I was only there for half of the day but it was well organized, the sessions I went to were great and there were some really cool people there – kudos to the planners and participants!

As the day began to wind down I noticed some dissent in the #barcampRDU twitter stream that I thought was very interesting.

tesmith #BarCampRDU feels like there is No Girls Allowed sign on clubhouse. For example, beer socials not comfortable for lone geek girls #justsayin

There were several retweets of this sentiment, but I don’t want to make it sound all bad – there were comments on both sides:

tlkativ I’ve gone four years and never felt intimidated or unwelcome. @ruby @therab @wiggitywack @varshachawla@lazyphiphi#barcamprdu

theRab @tlkativ @wiggitywack @varshachawla @tesmith i think the diverity issue is one of awareness not intimidation.#barcamprdu

There was plenty more Twitter conversation on the topic and I’ve heard it came up IRL conversation at the end of BarCamp; the idea of more diversity in general, and making women specifically feel more welcome. Personally, I was impressed by the number of women at the event – I would guess around 15% were women – which I hear was a better turn out than in past years. It was notable, however, that of the 40 or so sessions that were pitched, only two came from women.

In truth, I have my own “girl going to barcamp” story. I almost didn’t go to BarCamp at all as I had a couple of people, yes they were men, make comments that it was a “really technical conference” and that the sessions wouldn’t really be something I would be interested in. It’s not important what was said, what is important is that comments were made and they stuck with me – I did get the impression that I wasn’t altogether welcome at this conference. And no, I don’t think it was personal or intentional. It is what it is and any girl who works in or cares about IT gets this from time to time. But that is a big part of why we need girls at BarCamp.

We need girls to show up and have a presence; to own their experiences and get up and talk about the things they’re passionate about. We need girls to be out there sharing their ideas and networking so we have resources to turn to when we have questions.

To me the takeaway here isn’t recognizing that girls need to get out there, it’s recognizing that we need to DO something about it. All of us.

So… Huh. I guess I should do something now.

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