Author Archives: Mary Gardiner

Tell us what your open tech/culture event did to assist carers and children to attend!

Several conference organisers have responded to our article about linux.conf.au 2013’s childcare to offer other suggestions from their events about how to make child-carers and children welcome at their events. We’d love to share more ideas from past and upcoming events! If you’d like to explain your event’s offerings and stategies, please complete this form and we’ll compile your responses into an article about tried and true approaches to making open tech and culture events parent, carer and child-friendly!

linux.conf.au 2013: "The response to offering conference childcare has been overwhelming"

Conference childcare is one possible way to make attending conferences easier for women. Mothers are disproportionately likely to be primary carers for children, and, particularly for out of town events, may therefore be unduly burdened with finding and paying for childcare in order to attend events.

Australia’s premier open source conference, linux.conf.au, is offering formal childcare for the first time at their 2013 event next week. To help share their approach with other conferences, the Ada Initiative interviewed Lana Brindley, one of the core linux.conf.au 2013 organizers, about their childcare plans.

Lana: linux.conf.au 2013 is offering free childcare, provided by qualified childcarers, for children aged 0-12 during the conference sessions. Children must be signed in and out for each session, just as in a normal childcare arrangement at at a centre. Care is being provided in a room close to the main conference, so that parents can come and go easily.

There’s more info on our blog and in postings to the parents mailing list.

Footpath through trees on the the Australian National University campus, by Stephen Dann CC BY-SA

linux.conf.au 2013 venue: the Australian National University, by Stephen Dann CC BY-SA

Why is LCA 2013 offering childcare?

Lana: We recognise that many of our delegates are parents. Parents that come to the conference don’t always have the ability (or inclination) to leave their children with relatives or other carers while they are travelling. By offering childcare at the conference, we are providing parents with more choice about how they would like to spend their time at linux.conf.au. With any luck, it means that parents can bring their children with them to conference, and both parents and children can enjoy the week much more.

Has there been strong demand for childcare?

Lana: This is the first time childcare has been offered at the conference, and only the second time that a parents’ room has been made available (linux.conf.au 2012 in Ballarat offered a parents’ room for the first time). Because of this, we really didn’t know how many parents would be interested in using the service. However, demand has been quite high, and we will probably be close to the maximum number of children we can comfortably look after.

How did you find room in the conference budget to offer free childcare?

Lana: We investigated a number of different options for providing childcare, and after some looking around we were lucky enough to find two qualified childcarers who were willing to provide childcare for the conference. The cost to the conference compared with our overall budget is relatively small. Most of the costs are associated with fitting out the parents’ room with appropriate equipment and entertainment for the children. If future conference organisers want to run childcare, then a lot of that equipment could be reused. The idea is that, by offering childcare, we enable more delegates to attend the conference, so the budget should balance.

How difficult was it to arrange childcare?

Lana: Once we had contacted the childcarers and they had agreed to come on board, we held a meeting where we went through a lot of the legislation related to childcare, and discussed what requirements they had to provide care for the week. We then set about making sure we could stick to those rules and regulations. It wasn’t difficult, necessarily, but there have been a lot of things to consider, such as making sure we maintain proper child:carer ratios if a toddler needs to go to the bathroom, and where to safely store formula and breastmilk.

Would you recommend other conferences make similar arrangements, or (having organised it once) can you suggest improvements to LCA 2013’s arrangements?

Lana: At this stage, I’m confident that our childcare will be successful, and after spending some time with our childcarers I have utmost faith that they will do a great job. However, this is something that is new to linux.conf.au, and I have no doubt that we will run across things during the week that we can learn from.

I would absolutely recommend other conferences consider offering childcare (either for free, or for a nominal fee). The positive response to this initiative has been overwhelming, and hopefully if it becomes a regular feature of linux.conf.au (and technical conferences generally), it will help to encourage parents, and especially women who are primary childcarers, to attend conferences that they might otherwise not have gone to.

Limor "ladyada" Fried: Entrepreneur of 2012!

Photograph of Limor Fried

Limor Fried, used with permission

Limor “ladyada” Fried, founder of open hardware company Adafruit Industries, is Entrepreneur Magazine‘s Entrepreneur of 2012. Fried founded Adafruit while in college, and has grown it to a firm of more than 30 employees shipping hundreds of electronic products a day. They also provide extensive electronics tutorials. Fried is an open hardware pioneer, having contributed to the authoring of the Open Source Hardware definition and she has keynoted the Open Source Hardware summit. She’s previously been recognised by Fast Company as among The Most Influential Women in Technology and been profiled in Wired.

We asked Fried a few questions about her career, and whether open hardware is a community where other women could build a career:

Q. How has the open in open hardware contributed to Adafruit’s success?

Limor: Adafruit was built on the idea you can be a great cause and a great business, from the start we’ve given away the “recipe” of how make things. From the actual files to publishing code on how our open-source shopping cart system works. We’ve found the more you give, the more you get back. Our customers and community have a lot of choices where they can get electronics and more, they choose Adafruit because they know they’re part of something more than a sale of physical goods. Because we’ve put value in, we get a lot of value back.

Q. Has starting your own business let you accomplish things that wouldn’t have been possible as an employee?

Limor: Running your own business allows you to take risks that you usually cannot take if you’re an employee. Not too long ago we decided to hack the Kinect. We wanted everyone to be able to use Microsoft’s Kinect on any hardware they wanted, and to be able to create amazing projects. One of my favorite projects is a sign language translator, it’s amazing to see what the open source community had done with Kinect now that it’s been made more open. There was a lot of talk of Microsoft suing us, they eventually backed down and embraced the maker/hacker community – but if I were an employee I would not have been able to take on Microsoft.

Q. Have you found the maker community welcoming to a woman leader? How would you recommend women get involved?

Limor: The maker community has from the start celebrated woman leaders, the open source hardware summits to littleBits are all led by women. It’s one of the best examples of women in tech leading and doing amazing things. To get involved, look to your local hackerspaces/makerspace and join in, participate on forums and mailing lists — my favorite quote is from Dean Kamen “We are what we celebrate” — we still still have a lot of work to do to get more women celebrated in many tech fields, everyone can help get some amazing women in the spotlight more and more.

In this video, Fried introduces her company and explains how the principles of open hardware contribute to Adafruit’s business and educational goals:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.www.universalsubtitles.org/embed.js

Excerpt:

One of the really interesting things about the way we do business here at Adafruit is that not only do I design and manufacture electronics but then I give away the recipe of how it’s done. And I do this because I think it’s really important for people to not only understand how we make stuff but how they can make stuff themselves at home… I give away all this information so that people can learn, share and build their own businesses from it… I’ve found that the more we help people by teaching them and showing them how to be creative on their own the more they rewarded us by being great customers and also being part of our fun community.

Entrepreneur Magazine writes:

Limor’s and Adafruit’s efforts have shown it’s possible to not only have a goal of education, and to share knowledge freely, but how it’s possible to run a business doing so. There are hundreds of people and companies that have been empowered by Limor and Adafruit’s designs – they’ve gone on to make and share their own designs and start their own businesses, all using the hardware and software from Adafruit.

Limor’s goal is to make the world a better place by creating great products and showing how they’re made so others can learn and share. Adafruit has discovered the more we all give and share, the more we all get back.

Congratulations Limor!

Interested in attending an AdaCamp in San Francisco?

Photograph of the San Francisco cityscape

by Glen Scarborough, CC BY-SA

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. 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.

The Ada Initiative is planning to run our third AdaCamp, in San Francisco, California, on June 8–9, 2013, following successful events in Melbourne and in Washington DC in 2012. AdaCamp San Francisco will have two tracks: one for people who identify as women and one for allies of all genders.

AdaCamp DC attendees

AdaCamp DC attendees

In order to properly plan the event, we are hoping to get an indication of number of attendees, and the size of the travel assistance program we run. In order to do this, we are asking for expressions of interest in attending. If you are interested in attending, please fill out this expression of interest form below. If you do, you will be offered the first chance to formally apply.

Please note: this is not a full application to attend AdaCamp San Francisco, just a way to gauge interest. We will contact you with application details when applications open.

Interested in sponsoring AdaCamp?

AdaCamps are sponsor-supported events. Benefits include recruiting opportunities, your name in every conference announcement, and reserved attendance slots for qualified employees, depending on level.

Contact sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information: our sponsorship prospectus will be released shortly.

Dreamwidth pledges 5% of December revenues to the Ada Initiative

Following the success of last year’s pledge, journalling/blogging service Dreamwidth is again donating a percentage of December revenues to the Ada Initiative.

Dreamwidth’s code-base is open source and they are well-known for their successful approach to a friendly and diverse contributor community, as highlighted by Alex “Skud” Bayley in her 2009 OSCON keynote. In addition, Dreamwidth co-founder Denise Paolucci is a member of the Ada Initiative’s board of directors.

Denise and her co-founder Mark Smith announced their donation on Saturday:

Last year, we donated 10% of our proceeds for the month of December to the Ada Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the experiences of women in open technology and culture… This year, we’re bringing back the December charitable giving, with a twist:

  • 5% of our gross income for the month of December will once again be donated to the Ada Initiative.
  • 5% of our gross income for the month of December will be donated to several other nonprofits doing awesome work.

Thank you to Denise, Mark, and the Dreamwidth community for their second year of support for the Ada Initiative.

Interested in Dreamwidth?

If you’d like to contribute financially to both Dreamwidth and the Ada Initiative, create a Premium or Paid journal or upgrade your existing account. If you’re interested in checking out Dreamwidth for your journal, you can also create a free account.

If you’re interested in learning from the Dreamwidth project’s management style, see Denise’s post on Teaching people to fish.

If you’re interested in contributing to the Dreamwidth project, see their guide for new developers and their site community for all volunteers.

PyCon US discussing childcare: take their survey

PyCon US 2013 organizers write:

We’re tossing around a lot of ideas as we dive deeper into preparing PyCon 2013, and one that came up was the offering of childcare services. We’re planning some big things for the upcoming conference and we want everyone to be involved. Whether you’re a local who would like to spend a few extra days at the sprints or an out of towner who wants to tack PyCon on the end of a family vacation, we’d like to find out who would consider taking advantage of such services…

If you have children and are considering attending PyCon, we hope you can spare one or two minutes for this quick survey at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dE9NTEt0Z1hTU2h5TEo1UVZTY1pEYVE6MQ

Childcare is a difficult issue for event organizers: carers are so used to it not being offered at technical events that they often make a decision either not to attend an event without checking, or find out about the childcare too late to book it. Establishing and growing a tradition of offering quality childcare at your event year-after-year is needed to allow parents and carers to plan to attend your event. And since women are disproportionately primary carers of children, this potentially increases the proportion of women attending your event too. We hope the initiative of PyCon and other open tech conferences to canvass offering childcare to attendees becomes more widespread!

We’ve found at the Ada Initiative that attending events, or travelling for work at all, is prohibitively expensive for carers who cannot leave their child at home for the duration of the trip. Many tax regimes do not allow employers to provide a dependent child’s travel or childcare as a tax-exempt benefit, and may even punitively tax such benefits. Thus, the carer usually pays for their child’s travel and accommodation, pays full price to hold open their child’s long-term care position at home if any, and pays for care at their destination as well. Events cannot offset the entire cost of bringing dependent children to events, but contributing to the cost of the destination care is very welcome. Local event organizers or staff are also often better placed to research the availability of care for children in their area than travelling carers are, even if they cannot subsidize the cost of it.

Want to offer childcare at your event? The Geek Feminism wiki has a guide to childcare options at geek events. If your event already offers childcare, you can also add it to the list on that page.

JSConf US 2013 launches #15forAda, encouraging attendees to give to the Ada Initiative

We’re delighted to share the support of JSConf US 2013, who have launched the #15forAda appeal for their attendees to each donate $10 to the Ada Initiative, to which the conference will add a further $5 donation. JSConf organizers write:

We, the entire JSConf organizer family, care deeply about the tech community at large. From the start, we have had a strong mission component to our US events. We want to be an example for how conferences can be both fun and impactful. In 2010, JSConf US raised and donated over $3,000 to gender, racial, and financial diversity outreach programs in the computing sciences with our JSConf Diversity In Computing Drive. In 2012, we helped raise and donate over $25,000 to Feeding America as part of the TeamJS initiative. We have a great track record for not just putting on amazing conferences, but also for doing it in a fashion that improves the world in which we live. This is something that we are filled with pride about and look forward to every year.

For 2013, we want to continue our trend by bringing awareness and donations to the amazing Ada Initiative, which has the mission of supporting women in open technology and culture, something we fully support and believe in.

… We contacted the Ada Initiative and committed to conducting a sponsorship drive as part of our ticket purchase process. This year when you purchase your ticket(s) (regardless of level), there will be a checkbox that is already checked for you. This will add $10 USD to your ticket price and that $10 will be donated to the Ada Initiative as one lump sum from JSConf. Now you might be asking yourself, but why is the title “15 for Ada Campaign”? Well, we would be remiss if we asked you to help out with $10 and were not willing to assist as well, so for every donation made we will be matching $5 from the JSConf US budget to bring the total donation up to $15.

JSConf US 2013 will be held from May 29–31 2013 in Amelia Island, Florida. Registration for the conference will open shortly. The Ada Initiative is glad our work has contributed to the JSConf and JavaScript communities, and thank JSConf US and its attendees for their support!

Careers in open source: Ada Initiative releases survey of Grace Hopper attendees

In 2011, Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Portland, Oregon. As a volunteer on the open source booth on the exhibit floor of the conference, she asked attendees to volunteer to take a one-page survey about careers in open source. (They were rewarded with an energy bar.)

Grace Hopper is attended by students, computing professionals and academics, many of whom are job seekers or at least interested in the computing job market. While this is not a random or representative sample of technical women, and while it did require that the attendee was interested enough to chat to open source booth staff, it provides some initial indications about how aware interested motivated technical job seekers, particularly women job seekers, are of open source careers.

About the survey

The survey was a one page survey asking respondents short questions about their experience with open source and their perception of open source as a career path. The survey form is available.

There were 93 respondents, of whom 91 identified as a woman or female, 1 as a man or male, and 1 as genderqueer.

Experience with open source

In order to gauge previous experience with open source, we asked respondants to list My previous experience with open source. More than one response was allowed, and the totals were:

Experience with open source Number Percentage
I don’t have any experience with open source 35 (m)(g) 38%
I know people who work or volunteer in open source 42 (g) 45%
I have done unpaid work related to open source 15 16%
I have done paid work related to open source 14 15%
Other 6 6%
Table key: (m) male respondent included, (g) genderqueer respondent included

Opinions of an open source career

Almost all respondents felt neutrally or positively about a career in open source when asked Rate how you feel about a job in open source:

Feelings about career in open source Number Percentage
Very negative 0 0%
Negative 2 2%
Neutral 20 22%
Positive 36 (m) 39%
Very positive 29 (g) 31%
No opinion 4 4%
Table key: (m) male respondent included, (g) genderqueer respondent included

If we examine opinion of open source careers broken down by the person’s experience type with open source, we find that respondents who have themselves done work in open source are more likely have a strong positive opinion of open source careers, with 71% of respondents (10 people) who have done unpaid work on open source describing their feelings towards open source careers as “Very Positive” and 69% of respondents (9 people) who have done paid work on open source describing their feelings as “Very Positive”.

Graph showing opinion of open source careers by percentage of respondents with a particular experience type

Comments from respondents: the best thing about a career in open source

A selection of comments from respondents about what they consider the best thing about a career in open source:

Contributions to the community

The feeling of making/doing community service”, “Decrease digital divide”, “you are contributing to a software that is available for everyone”, “Making a difference to keep software accessible to those cannot afford to buy”, “Sharing knowledge!”, “information wants to be free – useful – better”, “It’s really amazing to be able to see my impact so clearly”, “The opportunity to make awesome software that anyone could use and to feel like I’m making a difference”

Membership of a development community working together

“the feeling that you are part of a Global team”, “Collaborating with a lot of people”, “Interesting co-workers”, “Working w/cool people!”, “Collaborating with a lot of people”, “collaborative, passionate people”

Career advantages and individual visibility

“having my work visible”, “The broad spectrum of job opportunities”, “Creating code that is easy to talk about publicly and (if I’m lucky) get feedback from peers outside of my company”, “Public portfolio – your work’s visible and not locked in to the company”, “Being able to talk+ blog about all of it!”, “Someone saw my resume and the open source project I worked on and found out I implemented stuff she used”, “The learning experience (and getting paid for it!)”, “We can laern [sic] some neat programming techniques.”, “Access to newest technology”, “access to upcoming technology”

Creative freedom

“Being able to choose my own direction”, “Freedom to work on things interesting to me.” “Small group work, more flexibility”, “variety of choices in projects”, “endless self-directed opportunities”, “Freedom to work on what you like”

Working on quality software

“Raise level of performance reliability and security of software”, “making contribution to strong systems that others can use for free”, “Advancing the industry”

Comments from respondents: uncertainty about careers in open source

Several replies to the question about the best thing about careers in open source expressed uncertainty instead: “I don’t know. Does it pay well?”, “I’m not sure what an open-source job would entail. It would be great to develop for open-source but how do you make a living that way?”, “No idea, would I get paid?”

Comments from respondents: the worst thing about careers in open source

A selection of comments from respondents about what they consider the worst thing about a career in open source:

Social and community norms

“extreme personalities”, “Community feedback! It can be harsh”, “Wearing the nerd glasses”, “working w/men, all the time”, “I’m a little leery of some of open-source culture”

Distributed or informally structured development teams

“Isolation, not working face to face”, “Complicated interface w/industry peers”, “Lack of a single unified team”, “communication issues (over the internet)”

Career stability and salary

“Funding problems?”, “sounds like it’s not very stable jobs (doesn’t pay very well?)”, “Underpaid? (no idea! But assuming….)”, “Doesn’t sound stable or well-paid”, “The expectation that you’ll do work for free. Open source does not mean that you can underpay me”, “Cannot monetize it”, “how do you get paid?”, “payment??”, “We work hard for little money”, “Not able to make lot of money (comparatively)”

Working on small market-share products and platforms

“Not working on popular platforms or OS’s like Windows/Mac”, “Very few people tend to know about software outside of the big-name companies, like Microsoft and Google.”, “no one knows about it, Adobe advertises like crazy, open source has a harder time”, “fighting to show that open-source projects are just as good, if not better, than closed-source solutions.”

Lack of development guidance or structure

“might get difficult to manage”, “Communication”, “Maybe sometimes the ‘no limits’ could be overwhelming”, “Less control over final product”

Conclusions

We found that this group of respondents largely feels somewhat positive overall about careers in open source. This is not a surprising finding, since even those who listed themselves as not having any experience interacted with the open source booth, but it should be a relief to open source: a negative perception in this group would suggest a very negative perception elsewhere.

Respondents were highly aware of potential impact on their career, both positive and negative. While quoting here of the comments about careers in open source is selective, there definitely was a large number of comments about open source careers being less well paid (or not paid at all), unstable and/or bad for one’s long term career. Conversely, while stereotypically it might be expected that women would be driven by selfless motives — and there were a lot of comments about contributing to a common good — our respondents were very alert to the career advantages of doing development in the public eye. This survey suggests that promoting open source development as a career path to women should include career prospects and salary information, as well as appealing to the greater good!

Because we don’t have a comparable male population to our 91 female respondents, it is impossible to tell whether there are significant gender differences in perception of open source careers, even in this particular community.

Materials

Additional information about the survey can be downloaded:

  • The survey form distributed to respondents.
  • Survey responses (anonymised). All identifying data has been removed. All replies to the freeform questions about career perceptions by those who refused permission for anonymous quotation have been removed.

Be paid to contribute to open source software: Outreach Program for Women internships

Applications are now open for the latest round of Outreach Program for Women internships. The Outreach Program has grown beyond GNOME, which has run it several times, and now includes 10 organizations offering a total of 20 internships, including GNOME, Wikimedia and Mozilla! Women throughout the world who have not previously been a recipient of a similar internship are welcome to apply:

Each participating organization, with the help of corporate sponsors, will sponsor several internships each from January 2 to April 2, 2013. Any woman who has not previously participated in an Outreach Program for Women or Google Summer of Code internship is welcome to apply, provided she is available for a full-time internship during this time period. This program is open to anyone who identifies herself as a woman.

Because the program is intended to help newcomers and contributors who are relatively new to the FOSS community to get more involved, we unfortunately can’t accept past participants of Outreach Program for Women or Google Summer of Code internships. However, if you qualify for Google Summer of Code, you are more than welcome to apply for it in the future.

The internship is expected to be a full-time effort, meaning that the participants must be able to spend 40 hours a week on their project. College women from the Southern Hemisphere who will have a school summer break during most of this time are particularly encouraged to apply. We are aware that there is an overlap with the beginning of the school year in March, but please don’t let it deter you from applying for the program. Please specify the dates you will have school, how much you expect it to limit your availability, and if you could start your project before January 2 to make up the time.

Applicants have until December 3 to get in touch with a potential project and make a contribution to it. The normal internship period will be January 2 to April 2. See the internship website for more information!

Survey on the experiences of newcomers in open source software

Ada Initiative advisor Karen Sandler and GNOME Women’s Outreach lead Marina Zhurakhinskaya are both promoting a survey run by PhD student Kevin Carillo. Kevin’s research focusses on how newcomers to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) projects experience them, and how that relates to them becoming or remaining a contributor.

The survey can be taken if you joined one of the following FOSS communities within the last 3 years (after January 2010): Debian, GNOME, Gentoo, KDE, Mozilla, Ubuntu, NetBSD, or OpenSUSE, and you have been contributing to the project on a regular basis (on average once a month or more during the last 6 months). Kevin writes “I am interested in hearing from people who are either technical or non-technical contributors, and who have had either positive or negative newcomer experiences.”

You can take the survey online at the Victoria University of Wellington’s webpage.