Category Archives: Women in open and tech and culture community news

Guest post: Conference codes of conduct as seen from your world and mine

This is a guest post by Andromeda Yelton about how conference codes of conduct actually improve the protection of free speech for women and other disadvantaged groups in tech, originally posted on her blog here. Andromeda Yelton is a librarian and freelance software engineer. She teaches librarians to code; speaks and writes about libraries, technology, and gender; and is on the Board of the Library & Information Technology Association.

In discussing ALA’s Statement of Appropriate Conduct with ever-wider audiences, I get the growing feeling that we stand at different starting lines, and it affects our understandings of the words in the statement.

So if you looked at the Statement and your first reaction was “but…free speech?” or “nanny state” or “political correctness”, this is for you. Let me attempt to explain some starting points. (Trigger warning: graphic violence, rape, rampant misogyny.)

Proponents of these codes are not concerned that people might disagree with them (even disagree passionately). We aren’t concerned that people might not be nice. We aren’t wanting to run to some hammer of authority every time someone says a group we’re in might be other than pure unicorns and roses.

Here is the world I live in:

I live in a world where famed game developer and technical writer Kathy Sierra disappeared entirely from the internet for years after she received a series of death threats, including publishing of her home address, social security number, and false allegations that she had abused her children.

I live in a world where Anita Sarkeesian ran a Kickstarter to support a project on sexism in video games, and as a result someone created and distributed a video game consisting solely of clicking on her face until you had beaten it to a bloody pulp.

I live in a world where merely having a female-gendered nickname on IRC (a chat network important in the technology world) makes you 25 times more likely to receive unsolicited malicious private messages, even if you never say a word.

I live in a world where I have zero interest in going to CES because I don’t want to have to deal with the naked booth babes (and am therefore cutting myself off from the biggest trade show relevant to my interests). Where a friend of mine takes for granted there will probably be naked women on conference slides in her field. Where people complaining that a joke about being “raped by dickwolves” in a comic about gaming isn’t funny leads to its creators selling dickwolves t-shirts and large numbers of people to this day defending this as a reasonable position to hold. Where a hackathon sponsored by a major tech news web site gives time on stage to an app intended solely for sharing photos of women’s cleavage, with a nine-year-old-girl in the audience. Where a major tech news discussion site is so prone to misogyny many women never bother to spend time there, at the same time as it is suspected of repeatedly quashing discussion critical of misogyny.

I live in a world where I treat it as great and inexplicable good luck that no one has yet threatened to rape or kill me just because I blog and speak publicly about technology and sexism under an obviously female name, and I have the backup plan in my head of how to moderate comments and log IPs if it’s ever needed, and the list of which friends have my back enough that I’d ask them to wade through that kind of cesspit for me. I live in a world where using my own name on github and IRC was aspecific conscious choice that required actual bravery from me, because I know that I am statistically exposing myself to retribution for doing so.

Let’s say that again: I live in a world where being myself in public, talking about things I care about under my own name in public, is a specific choice which requires both courage and a backup plan.

In this world some people choose not to be themselves in public. They choose not to speak, or to speak only under disguises – ones they can’t wear at conferences, face-to-face.

That is my concern about free speech. That right there.

That is the aim of conference codes of conduct. To clarify the threats — not to eliminate them, because you can’t ever do that, but to state that this is a place where silencing people through graphic threats of sexual violence or open and regular degradation is treated as unacceptable, that if it happens to you there’s a place to go, and to (crucially) say that the bystanders care too. That you’re not in a place where a lot of people are decent but indifferent and someone somewhere might attack you and it’s all on you to cope, but you’re in a place where a lot of people are decent and affirmatively have your back.

And by clarifying the threats, by publicly affirming the decency of the bystanders, we create a world where you don’t have to be quite so brave to speak up. A world where the uncertain, the new, the outsiders have a voice too. A world where maybe the barrier for being a woman in tech — or an outsider coming in — is not the ability to say “fuck you”, but merely the interest in saying something, anything.

If you have been reading the statement of acceptable conduct from the frame of mind that you haven’t encountered problems and things seem fine and the only speech you can imagine it chilling is the edgier end of the perfectly fine, please go back and reread it from my world. It reads differently.

Progress for women in open tech/culture in 2013: End of year wrap-up

CC BY-SA Adam NovakOur 2013 wrap-up of progress for women in open tech/culture is a little earlier than usual since the Ada Initiative will be experiencing some "downtime" from December 11 through January 1. (Computer metaphors are super useful, especially just after a nation-wide news story about a certain important web site in the United States…)

Overall, 2013 was a year of continuing progress for women in open tech/culture. Three recent high-profile incidents show how far we've come as a community: the controversy over removing unnecessarily gendered language in the open source project libuv, the debate over Chelsea Manning's name and gender in her Wikipedia entry, and two sexist presentations at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

While these incidents highlighted sexism and transphobia in these communities, their resolutions were incredibly positive. The libuv project not only removed the gendered language, it also adopted a formal policy against exclusionary language. Chelsea Manning's Wikipedia entry was eventually correctly named in English as well as most other languages, and the editors who fought against the renaming were banned from editing pages related to trans issues. And TechCrunch not only repudiated the sexist presentations, it adopted an anti-harassment policy for all of its events. Still not impressed? Just read the timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities for 2010 and see how many incidents turned out this well back then!

CC BY-SA Adam Novak. Woman with pink hair speaking and gesturing

CC BY-SA Adam Novak.

Thanks to your support, the Ada Initiative is working hard to accelerate this change in direction. Since our last progress report in mid-2013, we have published more resources for conference organizers, organized conference scholarships for 21 women in open tech/culture, taught two more Allies Workshops, shared best practices for fighting harassment with the skeptic/atheist and science fiction & fantasy communities, spoken at women in open tech/culture conferences, and much more. The anti-harassment policy movement continues to grow beyond our wildest dreams: recent adopters include all TechCrunch conferences (an organization formerly notorious for sexism under previous leadership), the Entomology Association of America's conference (bugs!), and live action role playing (LARP) groups. And we did it all in between raising over $100,000 for women in open tech/culture, hiring a new Director of Operations, and filing our taxes (groan).

AdaCamp logoOur plans for 2014 include running several AdaCamps around the world, teaching dozens of Allies Workshops, more Wikipedia-related work, and online community codes of conduct. In early 2015, we hope to have our first AdaCon – a 400+ person conference for women in open tech/culture and the people who support them. If you'd like to sponsor AdaCamp/AdaCon or hold an Allies Workshop, please contact us at contact@adainitiative.org for more information.

The progress we've made together over the last three years has only been possible because of people like you – the donors and sponsors of the Ada Initiative. By making it possible for us to work on supporting women in open tech/culture full-time, you are making a difference!

Here's to the progress we made together in 2013, and to more in 2014!

Donate now

For those of you making end-of-year donations to charity, the Ada Initiative is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit. Your donation may be tax-deductible in the U.S. (consult your tax advisor, we are not tax advisors, yadda yadda required lawyerese). For more information, see our donation FAQ.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Sarah Stierch

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Netha Hussain, AdaCamp DC alumna.

Photograph of Sarah Stierch

by Matthew Roth, CC BY-SA

Sarah Stierch (User: SarahStierch on Wikimedia) is an active contributor to Wikimedia, she has been contributing projects since 2006. She is an administrator on Wikipedia and the Program Evaluation & Design community coordinator at the Wikimedia Foundation. On Wikipedia, she is interested in writing articles about people and places. She was instrumental in launching the Teahouse, a friendly place to help newcomers get accustomed to Wikipedia’s culture and WikiWomen’s Collaborative, a global initiative in increasing the participation of women in Wikimedia projects. Both these projects she developed as a part of her fellowship program with the Wikimedia Foundation. She has also participated in OpenGLAM initiatives by working with prominent libraries, archives and museums in the US.

On Wikipedia, she performs administrative tasks like cleaning up speedy deletions and emptying the backlogs. Being an OTRS volunteer, she handles issues with images and media by adding appropriate licenses to images tagged for deletion. She does not get involved in controversial admin actions, like closing of consensus driven article discussions. She thinks that it would be a good idea to have more admins in charge of discussions related to women.

Sarah enjoys the work she does as an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation. Her experience as an employee is different from that of being a community member. Her experience as a community member always comes to help when she is asked her opinions about implementing new projects and programs. Some people treat her with more respect and interest because of her newly assumed roles. In her opinion, to have a chance to get paid for doing the work you love, with the colleagues you respect, to help Wikimedians around the world is a fulfilling experience. As a full time employee, she now also gets health benefits, which she thinks is nice!

She likes the work culture of Wikimedia Foundation. She finds satisfaction in being able to support one of the most popular websites in the world. Being located in San Francisco, the Wikimedia Foundation’s office is next to numerous tech-companies like Google, Yelp and Salesforce. She thinks that the unifying mission of employees of all organizations in SF to make the web a better place is a meaningful goal.

In the past, she worked as a fellow at the Wikimedia Foundation as a part of which two projects: the Teahouse and WikiWomen’s Collaborative were launched. She is still unclear on the impacts made by these initiatives, but evaluation shows that the Teahouse has helped retain new editors as a whole, a significant number of them being women. It is exciting for her to see her efforts making an impact not only in English but also in other language Wikipedias. WikiWomen’s Collaborative on the other hand has played a significant role in retaining the existing women editors, but have not brought many new women editors into the movement. She recalls that building the support system to help women was one of WikiWomen’s Collaborative’s achievements.

In her capacity as a volunteer, she has arranged numerous meetups and workshops to spread the word about Wikipedia. She recalls that the attitude of the Wikimedia community has generally been supportive, as most Wikimedians want to see more people get involved in the movement. She has been careful in avoiding discouraging comments from a few people who do not support her vision. She finds it tough to see the Wikimedia Foundation stepping back from the supportive role in increasing gender diversity, but she is happy that Wikimedia communities in different parts of the world have stepped up to fulfil this goal by organizing a variety of events and activities to increase the participation of women in Wikimedia.

Sarah believes that the Ada Initiative was critical in helping her become a better employee by helping her learn to handle unsettling and uncomfortable situations. Knowing how to address such situations has helped her to influence the environment at her office, and made it a safer and more inviting space for women. AdaCamp honed her facilitation skills, like making sure that everyone got their say in the discussions especially in male dominated groups. Among AdaCampers, she also found a great network of feminists around the world whom she can call on for support and advice. For her, it is a great feeling to be a part of the amazing community of AdaCamp alumni. The friendly space policies created by Ada Initiative is being used by her for all the events she and the Wikimedia Foundation conducts.

She calls upon all people to click [edit] when they find a mistake or an error on Wikipedia. She invites everyone to stop by the TeaHouse to get help on any aspect of Wikipedia. She wants all people to make a difference by editing Wikipedia.

Sarah’s biography can be read on Wikipedia here. She can be reached at sarah (at) wikimedia (dot) org.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Dana Bauer

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Leslie Birch, AdaCamp DC and San Francisco alumna.

I got to know Dana Bauer at AdaCamp DC. Even though we both live in Philly, it was really the first time I got to find out more about her. She is a map wizard and often spends her free time sharing her talents with hackerspaces and other meetup groups in Philly. She was instrumental in me taking my first Python workshop — something I was driven to do after attending AdaCamp. Dana is very active with the Python community and I can remember one talk she gave about Py love that had astounding graphics and ended with everyone in hysterics. She knows how to engage people and encourage community. Most of all, she keeps me on my tech path and represents the type of woman I strive to be.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Sarah Sharp

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Carol Willing, AdaCamp San Francisco alumna.

Thoughtful. Encouraging. Integrity. Commitment. Strength. Resilient. Collaborative.

These words easily describe Sarah Sharp, Linux kernel developer and USB 3.0 driver maintainer. Sarah's efforts with the Outreach Program for Women (OPW) in the Linux kernel demonstrate her commitment to build awareness, to encourage, and to celebrate the women that will become the next generation of contributors to the Linux kernel. I had the pleasure of spending time with Sarah and two of the OPW interns at LinuxCon this year and to see their energy and enthusiasm for improving the kernel and its community.

Sarah champions collaboration, inclusiveness, and respect to improve the Linux community. She's a wonderful ambassador for Linux, open source, and the Ada Initiative. Thank you Sarah!

Ada Lovelace Day 2013: women you should know of!

October 15 2013 will be the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

Photograph of Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson, , Ada Lovelace Day founder, self-portrait CC BY-NC-SA

Yesterday, we asked Ada Lovelace Day founder Suw Charman-Anderson about plans for Ada Lovelace Day 2013, and how Ada Lovelace Day has changed and grown. Today she shares some of what she's learned about women in STEM through Ada Lovelace Day, including four women who are less invisible to her as a result.

What's your favourite Ada Lovelace fact?

Suw: I love the letter that Ada wrote to Faraday when she was trying to convince him to tutor her. She was a real fangirl:

Dear Mr Faraday,

I am exceedingly tickled with your comparison of yourself to a tortoise. It has excited all my fun (& I assure you I have no little of that in me).

I am also struck with the forcible truth of your designation of my character of mind:

“elasticity of intellect“.

It is indeed the very truth, most happily put into language.

You have excited in my mind a ridiculous, but not ungraceful, allegorical picture, viz:

that of a quiet demure plodding tortoise, with a beautiful fairy gambolling round it in a thousand radiant & varying hues; the tortoise crying out, “Fairy, fairy, I am not like you. I cannot at pleasure assume a thousand aerial shapes & expand myself over the face of the universe. Fairy, fairy, have mercy on me, & remember I am but a tortoise“.

Given that he was a devout Christian, very humble and self-disciplined, I can't imagine that he was hugely impressed, but Ada's so charming and playful it's hard to imagine anyone could hold her enthusiasm against her!!

Tell us about some of the women you've been introduced to through Ada Lovelace Day.

Suw:

Photograph of Patricia Bath

Ophthalmologist Patricia Bath, Ada Lovelace Day heroine (image public domain)

Patricia Bath, born 1942: Patented a method for removing cataract lenses using a laser which quickly and almost painlessly dissolves the cataract. Her device has successfully restored vision to people who have been unable to see for decades.

Hedy Lamarr, born 1914: She was a Hollywood starlet in the 1940s who also invented frequency hopping, a technology that is still used in wireless devices today. She offered it to the US Navy for use in encrypting the signal to radio-controlled torpedoes during the Second World War, but they rejected the idea and it wasn't finally implemented until 1962.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, born 1906: One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I, inventor of the compiler, and a driving force behind the development of COBOL. Also popularised the use of the word 'bug' to mean a mistake in code, famously locating an actual bug – a moth – in the relays of the Mark II.

And going back a little further in time we have, from 2285 BCE, EnHedu’Anna High Priestess of the Moon-god Nanna, at Ur in Sumeria (now in Iraq), who was responsible for monitoring the movements of the stars via network of observatories as a part of her duties. She created the first collection of astronomical observations. Modern astronomy and maths follows almost continuous line from Sumeria to the present.

More about Suw

Suw Charman-Anderson is the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. She is also a social technologist and, as one of the UK’s social media pioneers, has helped clients worldwide use social tools for collaboration and communication internally and to build customer relationships externally.

A freelance journalist, she has written about social media and technology for The Guardian, CIO Magazine, .Net Magazine, Computer Weekly and FirstPost.com. She currently blogs about publishing and crowdfunding for Forbes.com.

In 2005, Suw co-founded the Open Rights Group with the aim of raising awareness of digital rights issues and campaigning against bad legislation in Britain and the EU.

Suw’s blog is chocolateandvodka.com and you can follow her on Twitter (@suw).

You can join Suw at Ada Lovelace Day Live! in London on October 15, with performers including Fran Scott, a science communicator who designs demos for CBBC, live stage shows and the Science Museum; Prof Molly Stevens, a leading bioengineer from Imperial College London whose work includes growing human bones in the lab; and Hazel Gibson, a geologist studying how geological processes affect our lives, and who is out to prove that women and geology is a combination that rocks!

Other events are being held around the world.

Ada Lovelace Day 2013: fight the invisibility of women in STEM!

October 15 2013 will be the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

You can participate in Ada Lovelace Day by attending Ada Lovelace Day Live! in London; attending one of the more than 20 other worldwide events; or by writing about a woman in STEM whose work has inspired you, publishing the story on October 15, and adding it to the Ada Lovelace Day story collection.

The Ada Initiative (which is also named for Ada Lovelace) is planning to share stories of our inspirational AdaCampers. We spoke to Ada Lovelace Day founder Suw Charman-Anderson (@suw) about Ada Lovelace Day 2013 plans, and how Ada Lovelace Day has changed since 2009.

What changes does Ada Lovelace Day 2013 bring?

Ada Lovelace Day wikiathon: two women work on laptops in front of a blackboard with wikiathon instructions

Ada Lovelace Day 2012 wikiathon, by Maia Weinstock CC BY-SA

Suw: As ever, we're holding Ada Lovelace Day Live! on 15 October, this year at Imperial College London with the support of the Biochemical Society, Texas Instruments and our other partners and sponsors. We also have nearly 25 grassroots events around the world which have been organised independently. I am very excited about how widely the day is going to be celebrated this year!

For the first time, we are also going to be publishing a book, A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention, a collection of 17 essays about pioneering women in science and technology. It is an exploration of how we passed some of the most important milestones in science and technology, from the identification of the Horsehead Nebula, to the writing of the first computer program, the development of in vitro fertilisation and the detection of pulsars. All of these discoveries and innovations were achieved by women. Frequently unsung, often underpaid and under-appreciated, and sometimes misrepresented, these women defied social convention and endemic sexism to excel. There stories are compelling and inspirational, and I am very excited about publishing this anthology, which will initially only be available from findingada.com.

Ada Lovelace Day's aim is fighting the invisibility of women in science and technology? Are you measuring its success? How successful has it been?

Suw: We've grown incredibly since the first Ada Lovelace Day in 2009, which started by simply asking people to write a blog post about a woman in technology who had inspired them. The idea attracted people to participate in ways I could never have imagined: We had people from all over the world writing in many languages with very little promotion, although we also garnered a lot of media and press coverage.

Since then, we've added the Ada Lovelace Day Live! 'nerd cabaret' as well as inspiring grassroots events all around the world. There are so many events, I often hear about them after the fact rather than before the day.

Whilst originally the day was focused on blogging about women in tech, blogs are less popular than they were in 2009. We are now encouraging an emphasis is on Wikipedia editathons, to increase the number and quality of articles on women in STEM. Those contributions are powerful and long-lasting, and editathons are open not just to people who are able to attend in person, but to anyone online who wishes to join in.

Ada Lovelace Day has grown far beyond the day itself, and there are a range of events throughout the month. I also give talks about women in STEM at schools, libraries and to professional organisations throughout the year.

What are some of your future plans and ambitions for Ada Lovelace Day?

Suw: I've love to do more, including creating educational materials, more books and even creating a professional network to allow women in STEM to support each other. At the moment, it is an issue of resources. To organise ALD I draw primarily on my own time and money, with a small group of volunteers to help, but I am actively seeking foundations and corporate sponsors to develop a sustainable base for which our activities can grow.

Tomorrow: more about Ada Lovelace Day heroines, and what Suw has learned about Ada Lovelace herself.

PyCon 2014 (Montreal, April): Call for Proposals is open!

This is a guest post by AdaCamp DC alumna Jessica McKellar, organizer of the Boston Python Workshop for women and board member of the Python Software Foundation.

The Ada Initiative's founders attended PyCon 2013 and ran our first feminist hacker lounge there, and we're thrilled to hear that the PSF and PyCon are continuing their strong track record of outreach to women.

The PyCon 2014 call for proposals is open, and we want to see talk submissions from you!

About PyCon

PyCon is the largest annual gathering for the Python community. It is a volunteer-run, supportive, happy, diverse conference for people of all programming backgrounds, from beginning to advanced Pythonistas and for professional and hobbyist programmers alike. The conference has tutorials, talks, poster sessions, development sprints, and more.

PyCon and the Python Software Foundation have taken a strong stance on supporting diversity outreach and cultivating a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds. In December, the PSF passed a resolution requiring a public Code of Conduct for all conferences receiving PSF sponsorship. PyCon has had a Code of Conduct inspired by the Ada Initiative's template since 2012.

PyCon 2013 saw a record number of women giving tech talks, and the Ada Initiative had its first ever Feminist Hacker Lounge at the conference!

Speaking at PyCon

PyCon is in beautiful Montreal in April of 2014. Need help getting to PyCon? No problem: the conference has a robust financial aid program (and the best way to ensure assistance is to be giving a talk).

Talks are 30 or 45 minutes long. Beginners can give talks. Hobbyists can give talks. You, yes you, would give a great talk on something that excites you about Python. Proposals are due by September 15th.

Check out:

Need some inspiration? Have a look at the talk list from last year.

A project you've been working on, a fun library, a cool language feature, how you use Python at work: these are all good talk opportunities.

Pick a topic and get started!

Join Robin Hammerman and other Ada Lovelace researchers and fans at Stevens Institute of Technology in October

In January, we shared with you the call for papers for the Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace conference:

CALL FOR PAPERS
Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace
18 October 2013
Stevens Institute of Technology, College of Arts and Letters (Hoboken, New Jersey, USA)

An interdisciplinary conference celebrating the achievements and legacies of the poet Lord Byron’s only known legitimate child, Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815–1852), will take place at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey) on 18 October 2013. This conference will coincide with the week celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, a global event for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). All aspects of the achievements and legacies of Ada Lovelace will be considered, including but not limited to:

  • Lovelace as Translator and/or Collaborator
  • Technology in the Long Nineteenth Century
  • Women in Computing: Past/Present/Future
  • Women in STEM- Past/Present/Future
  • Ada Lovelace and her Circle

Please submit proposals or abstracts of 250-500 words by 14 May 2013 to: Robin Hammerman (rhammerm@stevens.edu).

Submissions are still open, and organiser Robin Hammerman shares more about the conference and her interest in Ada Lovelace:

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

Robin: I teach Literature and Communications at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Most of our students major in STEM. To me, it is amazing to see how well our students build on their strengths and face their challenges in humanities courses. We are a relatively small school of only around 6,000 students with a strong spirit of collaboration. Our College of Arts and Letters is an ideal venue for hosting the upcoming Ada conference. We are a warm and welcoming part of the Stevens community, dedicated to mindful exchanges and – in my estimation – a perfect match for the Ada world. My research interests include science fiction, comics and graphic novels, and British Romanticism. I am chiefly a Byronist, so my initial connection to Ada was forged through my exposure to her father's life and works. Additionally, it has been my honor to serve the Byron Society of America as its Director of Membership and Academic Services since 2007. As you might imagine, we have many Ada fans in our membership!

Q. What motivated you to create a conference about Ada Lovelace?

Robin: The time is definitely right to bring Ada to campus. Stevens was a male-only school until 1971 and now we have a flourishing community of women on campus. We are constantly generating fantastic opportunities for women so that they might thrive here, and it has definitely been working. Within the College of Arts and Letters alone we developed an excellent Gender Studies program, and our new program for Science and Technology Studies – also within CAL – strongly anchors women in STEM. Additionally, in 1982 Stevens became the first major educational institution in the U.S. to implement a personal computer requirement for its students. Back then, a pioneering technology project resulted in the networking of the entire Stevens campus, creating one of the nation’s first Intranets. Clearly, Stevens is well-positioned to host a conference celebrating Ada's legacies and achievements.

Q. Who should speak at or attend this conference?

Robin: I anticipate an interdisciplinary extravaganza of past/present/future with people of varying interests represented in the audience and the speakers. Really, all are welcome – faculty, students, independent and rogue scholars, enthusiasts…the call for papers is rather open. In addition to topics on women in STEM, the history of computing, etc. we are interested in developing panels on new media. I would really like to hear some work at the conference on Ada's collaboration with Charles Babbage as well as Ada's larger circle. She had some very interesting friends, including Charles Dickens. While we are on the subject of literary topics, we are developing a panel on Ada's iconic status in Steampunk Literature – so you see, there is hardly a limit to what we might include. You don't have to be a passionate supporter of women in STEM to attend or speak at this conference, but it helps!

Q. What is your favorite Lovelace fact or story?

Robin: To me, the coolest ever Lovelace fact is that NASA named its first computer program after her. As a Byronist, I think that Ada never meeting her father is an interesting part of her story. Nevertheless, this fact seems to say more about her father than it does about her.

Q. What are your plans for next year?

Robin: I am interested in seeing how our Stevens community and beyond will be enriched by the conference proceedings. Next year will provide us with unique opportunities to expand our Ada-inspired knowledge bases. If it seems appropriate, perhaps we might consider developing a publication including papers from the conference. Most of all, this conference will bring together people who might otherwise not have met. From this act of coming together, I anticipate long-term benefits in our collective thinking about what it means to have true, interdisciplinary engagement.

The Empowermentors Collective: a group for women of color and queer people of color

Students for Free Culture write:

The Empowermentors Collective is a new space by and for women of color and queer people of color within free software and free culture.

We recognize the need to address deep-seated cultural norms within the free software and free culture communities which, under the guise of openness, have excused and perpetuated alienating behavior. It is imperative that we acknowledge that there are systemic structures of control embedded in our society which permeate our movement. Refusing to do so in an effort to compartmentalize and focus on our own goals is detrimental to our success. We cannot afford to be an inward-facing movement.

To expose and undo this culture of exclusion, we would like to support the recently established Empowermentors Collective, a community for intersectionally marginalized identities. This type of intentional space also opens up the potential for much needed coalition building and advances our own understanding of how technology and media are inseparable from our experiences and ourselves, our bodies.

As the description reads:

The Empowermentors Collective is a skillshare, activism, and discussion network by and for women of color and queer people of color. We are a group of community members with a strong commitment to furthering free software and free culture through an intersectionally marginalized lens and making a more welcoming space out of these communities. We therefore necessarily also work against and do not tolerate oppression in all its forms: ableism, racism, cissexism, heterosexism, sexism, classism, etc.

The Empowermentors Collective strives to be an affirming and safer space for people with disabilities, people of color, women, and people self-identified as queer or LGBT.

We are called Empowermentors because we focus on education and encourage participants to host workshops and skillshares geared towards intersectionally marginalized identities.

  • We maintain a safer space for marginalized identity groups.
  • We address issues of oppression within the free software and free culture communities.
  • We equip each other with skills and knowledge of free software and free culture.
  • We file, catalog, and help solve bugs related to race, gender, and accessibility in free software projects.
  • We take on mentorship positions and run targeted workshops, classes, and skillshares.

Students for Free Culture and the Free Software Foundation are proud to support this effort to identify, expose, and confront crucial issues within our communities; to bridge our movement with our contemporaries in the critical intersectional analysis of oppression, hierarchy, and domination; and to develop our own philosophy at the cutting-edge of feminist, queer, critical race, and cyborg theory.

If you are a woman of color or queer person of color in the free software or free culture community and are interested in being a part of the Empowermentors Collective, please join the mailing list and the #empowermentors IRC channel on freenode. If you are an ally to these issues, please help spread the word!