Skip to main content.

Thu, 19 May 2011

Boston Python Meetup, May 18

Today there was a Boston Python Meetup on science. Two biologists presented. One-sixth of the attendees were women.

Ned Batchelder found the presenters and invited them to speak. I had the pleasure of meeting one, Geraldine, at the last Boston Python hack night.

At the last minute, I couldn't make it due to bad planning: lots of overdue work and having to cook dinner for my house.

Afterward, Ned found me on IRC and gave me a quick summary of attendees' demographics, gender-wise:

<nedbat> paulproteus: attendance tonight at the meetup: 55 men, 11 women.

I'm really happy about that. It means that things are changing. In January, when I first attended, there was one woman in a room of about fifty.

I'm proud that I sparked something positive here. In December, I thought about putting together an introductory programming workshop for women and their friends, and in January, Deborah Nicholson joined me to make sure it would happen. Ned invited us to do it as part of the Meetup group; in March, I was part of a team of instructors and co-organizers who ran the first one. In the new staff, Jessica McKellar is most notable; she has been doing most of the organizing lately.

The trend of more women in attendance was already visible in April. In this regular monthly May meetup, we accomplished this level of one-sixth. I'm really proud of that forward progress.

I think there a few things going on here:

In this regard, I think that introductory programming teaching is almost a sideshow: it's not just that we are creating more women who are interested in Python. We're also attracting women who already have programming chops to attend the Meetup. If you were a woman browsing tech events wondering which one to attend, you might pick ours because it seems more likely you'll have a good time.

(I may seem a bit blasé about the teaching, so let me clarify: I see our workshop as having two goals. One is a service to Ned Batchelder and the attendees of the Meetup, which is to make the workshop a more diverse environment. I'm interested in that as a test-case of what it takes to diversify small, visible software communities. The second goal is to change the world more broadly: we find people who would like to learn programming but haven't, and we diversify the pool of people who can program. This goal is hugely important, and it's worth running the workshops even if the Boston Python Workshop becomes an even male-female split.)

I'm pretty happy. I will heed the advice of Bad Religion:

Don't be a henchman.
Stand on your laurels.

Back to work, then. There's more to do.

Update: How to join in

In my enthusiasm, I nearly forgot to write about how you can get in touch with us and do something similar for your communities.

The best thing to do is:

Second update: Ned informs me:

<nedbat> paulproteus: at the beer after-party, two new women and one new man showed up: 13/56: 18.84%
<nedbat> there were 25 people at the bar i would guess.

Make of those numbers what you will.

[] permanent link and comments

Comment form

  • The following HTML is supported: <a href>, <em>, <i>, <b>, <blockquote>, <br/>, <p>, <abbr>, <acronym>, <big>, <cite>, <code>, <dfn>, <kbd>, <pre>, <small> <strong>, <sub>, <sup>, <tt>, <var>
  • I do not display your email address. It is for my personal use only.

Your email address: 
Your website: