AdaCamp San Francisco final report: "It was an amazing, inspirational weekend for me."

“I enjoyed being part of a discussion that others were as passionate about as I was.” — Anonymous AdaCamper

Photograph of the San Francisco cityscape

by Glen Scarborough, CC BY-SA

AdaCamp is an unconference for women and female-identified people in open technology and culture and the people who support them. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, discuss issues women have in common across open technology and culture fields, and find ways to address them. AdaCamp is organized by the Ada Initiative, a non-profit devoted to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture, which includes open source software, Wikipedia and related projects, fan fiction, and more.

Nearly 180 people attended the main track of AdaCamp San Francisco, held on June 8–9, 2013, with an additional 15 attending an allies track on June 8 open to participants of any gender.

A huge thank you to all of our sponsors who made AdaCamp SF possible: Mozilla, Automattic, Google Site Reliability Engineering, Linux Foundation, Red Hat, Intel, Puppet Labs, Twitter, GitHub, Heroku, O’Reilly, New Relic and the Python Software Foundation.

Impact of AdaCamp San Francisco

AdaCamp logo

“People with knowledge — especially more technical knowledge were able to share it.” — Anonymous AdaCamper

Our post-event survey (31% response rate) indicated that a large majority (92%) of respondents felt that AdaCamp had improved their professional networks and nearly as many (82%) felt more part of a community of women in open technology and culture. Two of the primary goals of AdaCamp are to increase awareness of issues facing women in open technology and culture (87% of respondents agree that AdaCamp had this effect) and to help women participate in open technology and culture (85% of respondents agree that they are more committed to participating now).

Many survey respondents enjoyed the variety of topics at AdaCamp; their control over the topics; the freedom to move between discussions; and the diversity of people involved in the discussions and the resulting different perspectives.

About the attendees

“The unconference was stronger because we weren’t all alike” — Christina

179 people attended the main track for people who identified as women or female, with a further 15 attending the allies track for people of any gender. These attendees lived in at least nine countries. The majority of our attendees were from the United States, other AdaCampers traveled from Canada, Mexico, Cambodia, China, India, Romania, Cuba and Australia.

We worked hard to make AdaCamp SF diverse in many different ways. Some statistics from our post-conference survey (31% response rate):

  • 30% listed their race or ethnicity as other than white or Caucasian (25% in the AdaCamp DC survey)
  • 18% were born outside the United States (28% AdaCamp DC)
  • 16% spoke a language other than English as their first language (19% AdaCamp DC)
  • 41% were not employed as programmers or IT specialists (49% AdaCamp DC)
  • 26% were students, professors or researchers (22% AdaCamp DC)

Travel scholarships

To make AdaCamp more accessible to students, non-profit employees and others living outside of the Bay Area, and to increase the diversity of our attendees, we offered 16 travel scholarships to AdaCamp San Francisco. Our two international grants were awarded to AdaCampers from India and Cambodia, and our fourteen North American travel grants were awarded to eleven AdaCampers from the United States, two from Mexico and one from Canada.

What we did

Main track

“No matter what interest people had, they were able to gain respect by sharing their knowledge.” — Anonymous AdaCamper

AdaCamp San Francisco’s main track was primarily structured as an unconference, with attendee-organised and facilitated sessions around issues facing women in open technology and culture. However, following feedback from the previous two AdaCamps, we added some more structure to the beginning and end of the schedule.

For most attendees, the first session of AdaCamp’s main track was an Imposter Syndrome workshop. Women’s socialisation is often less confident and competitive than men’s, and women are therefore especially vulnerable to Impostor Syndrome — the belief that one’s work is inferior and one’s achievements and recognition are fraudulent — in open technology and culture endeavours where public scrutiny of their work is routine. At AdaCamp DC Impostor Syndrome discussion had been popular enough to appear in four different timeslots, so at AdaCamp San Francisco, the opening session was a large-group Imposter Syndrome workshop faciliated by Ada Initiative advisor Leigh Honeywell. Leigh has opened one of the exercises from the workshop for public contributions.

During this first session, other AdaCampers went to assist with the Allies Workshop in the allies track, and others focussed on advanced discussion around intersectionality. The Imposter Syndrome workshop was followed by introductory sessions on areas of open technology and culture that might be new to participants; including open source, fandom, Wikipedia and open science.

Two sessions in the afternoon were the first free-form sessions. A discussion on the “Likeability Paradox” was highlighted by many attendees as one of their favourite sessions. Others included discussion of the mythos surrounding Ada Lovelace as a historical figure; journalism and tech; diversity beyond gender; and depression in activists. On Sunday the morning sessions were also free-form, and included womyn of color; motherhood and feminism in tech; job seeking and career advice; and being feminine or expressing femininity in technical spaces.

“[I admired] the impressive skills of some of the younger women coming into the tech world” — Anonymous AdaCamper

On Sunday afternoon, attendee-organized sessions moved towards skill-sharing and creation, including an HTML5 workshop; a Python tutorial; a make-a-thon and a Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Discussion continued on topics including ageism; data, women and environmentalism; human rights and open tech; and when one is able to identify as a core contributor in open tech.

Lightning talks were held on both days of the main track, on topics ranging from mentoring to Nethack to product localization.

Allies track

A one day allies track for people of any gender wishing to support women in open technology and culture was held on June 8. The allies track opened with Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora faciliating the Ada Initiative allies workshop, which focuses on practical, everyday ways allies can support women in their community. The allies subsequently organised a one-track unconference around themes they chose.

Social events

On the evening of Friday June 7, Google SRE hosted a reception for main track attendees at their San Francisco offices. Thank you to Google for sharing their beautiful view of the Bay Bridge with us, and to Matt Howard for organising the event and Sabrina Farmer for her welcome to attendees.

Following the tradition established at AdaCamp DC, instead of a large social event on Saturday night, attendees had dinner in small groups at restaurants around San Francisco. Attendees were invited to host dinners on behalf of their employers; thank you to Intel, Puppet Labs, Mozilla, Google, Red Hat, Benetech, the Wikimedia Foundation and Suspect Devices, and their representatives, for hosting dinners.

Reports from AdaCampers

Several AdaCampers have written publicly about the event, describing their favourite parts and suggesting improvements for future events. Thank you for your feedback, and we hope others find it as useful as we did! (Emphasis in the quotes is ours.)

Hung out and talked with SO MANY PEOPLE. Great conversations about mapping, the Hate Map, Open Street Map, open source hardware kits for fiber arts people, web accessibility struggles in open source, all kinds of gossip, new feminist hackerspaces starting up like the Seattle Attic and one coming soon in Portland (there may be an SF one someday … stay tuned). Ciberseguridad in Mexico for feminist activists, scooters…. I can’t remember what else but I was never bored for even a second. Everyone was so nerdy and happy. I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Liz Henry, reception report

I got to meet some really amazing women this weekend. As much as I love working with my amazing male colleagues, there is always something different about being able to sit down with other women who have shared the experiences that are often difficult to explain to people who haven’t had them. Even better, many discussions I had were advice and solution-driven, “I had $foo experience, here’s how I handled it.” Awesome.
Elizabeth Krumbach

In the book Lean In, there’s a section about the difficulty of being liked vs being respected when you are a woman leader. This discussion was by far the best large-group of the day for me, and extremely well-moderated. I wrote down lots of phrases: bossy, “risk theater”, damning with faint praise… There was the start of a great discussion about dog whistle adjectives, adverbs and verbs that subtly and not-so-subtly remind women of their role and place.
Selena Deckelmann (see also her reception report)

We said many things [during the “Startups” session], 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.
Andrea Arzaba

I met many, many amazing women of all ages from all walks of life who are doing amazing things… but for now want to express how thankful I am for the opportunity to attend. AdaCamp was an inspiring experience which I won’t soon forget.
Emily Gonyer

Ranging from open education to open government, learning python to open hardware, work cultures for women, to women centric maker spaces (the one I really wanted to be a part of); the range was broad and exciting. I proposed two sessions: on angry young women, and on women centric maker spaces. A fun session where I learned things: soft circuits (and e-textile – with no stereotypes attached :P )
Noopur Raval

The sessions were amazing but even more amazing were the AdaCampers themselves. I met strong, capable, brilliant people who have passion for a variety of things but who were all brought together to participate in this unique event. They each brought their own experiences and their own expertise. The unconference was stronger because we weren’t all alike and we didn’t experience things in the same way.

I can’t sum up my conference experience easily, but it was powerful on various levels. This is the first time they’ve had an “ally track”–apparently in the previous two conferences, there were some issues with even well-intended men changing the tone significantly… so the allies track was something of an experiment. For me, at least, it was a hugely successful experiment… I was pleasantly surprised by… [h]ow many folks there who were not only highly motivated and passionate about open source, but were equally as motivated to change open source tech environments so that they are more diverse — not only along gender lines, but also around race, class, queerness, etc.
Jeff Pollett, allies track attendee

Conference resources

After AdaCamp DC, we released our conference booklet and associated materials to help build safe events for women. Following AdaCamp SF, we will also be releasing some accessibility techniques we used to make the conference more accessible to wheelchair users and people with visually impairments, together with further discussion of photography policies for conferences.

Future AdaCamps

“Please have it again and again and again. Everywhere. Thank you!” — Anonymous AdaCamper

We’re thrilled with the increasing success of AdaCamp at bringing women together and developing the current and next generation of women leaders in open technology and culture. AdaCamp is one of the key programs of the Ada Initiative, with huge impact on its attendees and the communities they are involved in. We are developing plans for AdaCamps in 2014 and 2015; if you’d like to be notified of the next AdaCamp, sign up to our announcement mailing list or follow us on Twitter.

Thank you to all of the AdaCamp SF attendees and AdaCamp SF sponsors for giving us the support we needed to run this event and make it what it is. You’re the reason AdaCamp is amazing!

We thank our gold level sponsors Mozilla, Automattic and Google Site Reliability Engineering; and our silver level sponsors Linux Foundation, Red Hat, Intel, and Puppet Labs; for their support of AdaCamp San Francisco.