My un-talk at DjangoCon. Warning: rant.

by Lynn Root DjangoCon PyLadies

I woke up the morning of my talk lightly hung over after the awesome Divio after party for DjangoCon Europe/Zurich wanting to completely scrap my whole prepared talk this afternoon about what I’ve done to educate women, and how to make the Django tutorial better for new folks coming into programming in general.

Not because I’m hung over, or a wimp, or that I didn’t prepare (which I half-ass did, enough to feel fine going up on stage).  But because something else needs to be talked about.

Women.  Women in tech.  Women at conferences. I want to make a few points about my experience here at DjangoCon: I woke up this morning a little offended.  There are about 250 attendees, about 8-10 of them are women (or at least selected female cut shirts), a ratio that is not unfamiliar, but quite low nonetheless.  Those who reviewed the talk proposals for DjangoCon Europe selected 2 women (myself included) to give a talk, and invited 2 women to serve as keynote speakers.

I’m bothered not because of one particular thing happened.  I’m peeved because of many little things that added up that are independently too little of an annoyance to address. For instance, I walked into the first day of the conference; as soon as it was my turn to check in, it was assumed that I was the only female name badge that was visible on the table.  No big deal; there’s a high probability here that it would be me.  I don’t blame them.

When I passively mentioned a couple of times that I’m giving a talk at the conference, people assumed I’m one of the two female keynotes for the same reason, high probability that a female speaking is one of the keynotes. I’ll be honest: it perturbs me a little that people approach me asking how to get women involved, maybe having their female counterparts in mind, wives, girlfriends, friends, daughters, etc.  In my opinion, if that question is asked, it’s compounding the issue.  

What should happen is not conversations about how to get a minority in an industry to reflect population distribution in a nation. On twitter, a friend from PyCon asked me and two other folks that are here at this conference whether he should use iPython and bpython.  That was a personal win for me: it was pretty much the first time someone in the Python community solicited me for technical advice.

I passively get women involved by actively pursuing what I’m interested in: learning how to code.  I host workshops & events for PyLadies and Women Who Code, bring women down to developers' conferences and local meetups with me, invite female speakers for events, meet with friends individually to tutor in Python, lots of fun things.  This indirectly creates an environment full of support and excitement, and it feels awesome.

So I’m telling you here: let’s get women involved by engaging them directly. It takes action, understanding, and doing.

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