Last weekend I attended the first “unconference” of my entire life: The Ada Camp in San Francisco CA. This event brought together a diverse community of women – and a couple of guys, for them to discuss concerns women have in common, across open tech and culture fields.
I was not sure if the camp would be mainly focused on coding – and since I am not a coder but a journalist that got invited for some of the work I have done as a blogger and for one of my current projects: The SunFlower Post; I was very surprised to experience the variety of people + skills brought to the event.
Trying to sum it up in a few words, these are the things that I learnt during AdaCamp SF, and that are staying with me for future projects/personal knowledge:
Sarah Stierch, a free-culture advocate working for Wikipedia, guided the first session I attended. The discussion bounced from the conflicts of interests on deciding who is an “ideal” candidate for having a Wikipedia page to WikiWomen’s Community Project to encourage women to edit Wikipedia.
For me, the empowerment of women working in tech started with Sarah inviting us to collaborate to Wikipedia, continued with Sumana, encouraging us to apply for grants offered by the Wikimedia Foundation and ended up with every single women I met at the Summit. Constant fighters for their rights on equality in an open space culture – women that reject feeling discouraged for being a minority in the field of technology.
– Breaking Stereotypes: It is OK Being Feminine and Working in Tech
On the side talks I had in the hallways, an attendee was telling me how she wouldn’t wear heals or bring skirts to work since she is an engineer. She works in coding and she needs to “look less feminine in order to be credible for her clients”.
I had never thought on the matter before. I never realized how, for women in tech, it is not only about comfort, but it is a matter of credibility. If you wear too much make up, if your heels are too high or if your clothes are too tight, that might be an obstacle to get hired for tech projects.
Bringing this problem to the table and raising awareness on it would help change our minds on this absurd stereotype. The way you dress does not reflect your competency as a developer/coder/engineer/any-other-career-you-choose.
– It is Never Too Late to Start
During the “Start-ups and tech” session, an important question that was brought up during the discussions was: in order to empower women, how can we effectively support each other?
We said many things, but the one that stayed with me was reminding ourselves it is never too late to start. You can succeed even If you did not start your learning/business/start-up before you reached your early 20s. And it is very possible that you will accomplish many victories, since you already have experience in many other fields.
– Embracing Diversity
People from all continents, backgrounds, interests and colours came together to discuss the situation of open tech/culture in our contemporary society. The result: a masterpiece of inspiration + empowerment + networking + support on tech/open culture for women today.
Thank you all for being a part of the adventure!
(Andrea Arzaba, June 2013)