Ruby on Rails Workshop

Thanks to everyone who contributed and attended the workshop this October. We hope we were successful in hosting an attitude-free, newbie-safe and mama-friendly tech event encouraging women to join the Ruby on Rails community.

Women are a minority in most technical communities, but in open source communities the numbers are even smaller — by a factor of about ten or more.

Moving forward, we encourage our newly empowered programmers to meet monthly and use their skills towards open source projects in a welcoming, collaborative, mixed gendered environment.

Click here to learn more about the Open Source Code Crunch.

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Julia Ashmun

Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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Geek Feminism Wiki

Launched last July the Geek Feminism Wiki is “An overview and resource centre about issues facing women in geek communities.”

Seems like they’re trying to be a central repository for all things female geek.  Perhaps they should get together with who is compiling a list of women conference speakers.

Mentor in a Box

It is a common lament at Berkman (and beyond of course) to hear that its difficult to find qualified female applicants for tech staff, for internships, for fellowships, for board positions… you name it.  It is my belief that talent must not only be sought out but cultivated from within.

So I was excited to hear about the Mentoring in a Box toolkit put together by the Anita Borg Institute and National Center for Women in Information Technology via the Systers Mailing list.  The free download offers activities, resources, and tools to support a mentoring pair and “start and sustain a purposeful and rewarding mentoring relationship”.

Might be try growing tech leaders at Berkman and across campus via this mentoring program?

Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology

As stated on the new White House website, Obama has made a commitement to “Increase the representation of minorities and women in the science and technology pipeline, tapping the diversity of America to meet the increasing demand for a skilled workforce”.

But how do you DO that exactly? Especially when this morning, I read arecent article about’s “Most Influential Women in Web 2.0” post in which many comments to Digg were graphic, sexist, and nasty eventually resulting in posters being thrown off by the site’s administrators.

The New York Times offers suggestions in an excellent article about ‘Geek Chic’ that talks about the hurdles women face pursing a career in science and offers some ideas.

In particular, I applaud their suggestion of appointing women to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. We need role models. And we need women in power who will step outside of the boy’s club and mentor other young women as they seek a leg up.

The article also points out that pursuing an academic career in science means giving up having a family. “Men can have it all, but women can’t,” says Dr. Mary Ann Mason of the University of California, Berkeley. She believes that an executive order that would provide added family leave and parental benefits to the recipients of federal grants would make a difference. Why stop there?

As a pregnant, woman technologist myself let me restate the obvious point that creating life and parenting small children while staying technically relevant is a challenge. But it can be done. I did it. I’m doing it again. Women are doing it. Sure we’re drooling on our keyboards in the first trimester, but we’re no less productive than our husbands (now involved fathers giving up blogging and gaming time for midnight feedings) who are also drooling on their keyboards when the boss isn’t looking. Still the obvious discrimination that women face is astounding.

Personally, I think its all about perception. Women (and everyone else) need to be able to envision themselves as successful technologists. We need to know that choosing a career in science doesn’t mean giving up the Manolo Blahniks as well as any hope of raising a family.

Hollywood has made motherhood sexy. Can Obama make science sexy? Can a pregnant, software developer be sexy? Have you met me? …Seriously though, I wonder if science becomes sexy, glamorous, the new chic, will more girls be drawn to it? Wouldn’t it be awsome if Obama hired Xeni Jardin for his Council of Advisers on Science and Technology?

The NY Times article also makes mention of a network show I love called The Big Bang Theory. I get a thrill hearing all the geek references thrown around in primetime. But what is troublesome about this show is that the sexy, blonde bombshell across the hall didn’t graduate community college and the only other female physicist is unattractive, sexually abnormal and unfeminine. While both women can hold their own amongst a group of socially awkward but brilliant men… who would you rather be?

We need role models, Mr. Obama. Feminine role models who aren’t afraid to bring home the bacon, chauffeur the kids in a van, and be able to set up your lan.

New CTO of the U.S. Could be a Woman

It’s great to see President Obama so focused on technology and the importance of it in our government. Although it is still unclear how the new CTO position will interact with the current Chief Information Officer and the new Cyber-Security Czar position the two people up for the position are both Indian-born technology executives. They are Padmasree Warrior who is the chief technology officer of Cisco Systems, and Vivek Kundra, who is the chief technology officer in the government of Washington, D.C. Padmasree Warrior was previously the CTO at Motorolla and has a strong technology expertise.

Check out the article in Business Week.

Fortune 500 Women CEOs

There are 12 Fortune 500 CEOs that are women, but none of them are in the technology field. Maybe the next generation of CEOs will change that! Read the article from

Support Ada Lovelace Day!

Join the pledge of over a thousand people to blog about your favorite woman techie on March 24th. You can pledge here:

Learn more about Ada Lovelace, the “first programmer”, here.

Girl Geeks Unite and Go To Dinner

From the women who brought you GirlGeekDinnersBostonGirlGeeks has recently launched!  Participate online by joining the Facebook Group or via Twitter at bostongirlgeek.  The next dinner is planned for January 23rd.

Dev mom takes baby to class

So what do you do when you are scheduled to attend a workshop at a conference happening locally and your babysitter goes to the hospital that morning.

Unfortunately, my babysitter (a.k.a. MIL) went to the hospital (she’s fine now, thanks) a few hours before.  Not wanting to miss a class I was really looking forward to, I thought I’d try bringing Lilli and see what happened.  She’s a very easy going baby and it was worth a shot since I live only 25 minutes away.

I felt very “cosmo-mom” bringing my baby to a conference.  Of course, these events tend to be male dominated and I wasn’t sure how the guys would feel to have a pregnant lady with a baby in class.  Russ was a little taken aback when he heard “moaning” in the back of the room during his talk but then was pleasantly tickled to discover that it was just the coos of my little girl.  He should be flattered.  She was engaged in his talk for over 3 hours.  All in all, everyone was very kind.  And while I did feel a little awkward, Lilli enjoyed herself immensely.  That’s my girl!

Mass NOW Conference

The Massachusetts chapter of NOW is holding a one day conference in a few weeks and the keynote speaker
will address gender equity and education featuring the Exec. Dir of the Wellesley Centers for Women, Dr. Susan McGee Bailey. 

Where: Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study,
Radcliffe Gymnasium, 10 Garden Street, Radcliffe Yard, Cambridge
(For directions and parking information please visit www.radcliffe. edu/about/visitors. aspx)

When: Saturday, December 6, 2008, 10 am -2 pm
Registration fee – $5 for members, students and educators. $10 for the general public

What Has Driven Women Out of Computer Science?

The number of women in the computer science field has been surprisingly dropping. In 2001-2002 28% of undergraduate degrees for computer science went to women, it went down to 22% in 2004-2005. Many computer science departments are reporting that the percentage is now under 10%. It is argued that the rise of male oriented video games correlates to the decline in women interested in the computer science/engineering field. Justine Cassell, director of Northwestern University’s Center for Technology & Social Behavior, has written in “Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming,” “The girls game movement failed to dislodge the sense among both boys and girls that computers were ‘boys’ toys’ and that true girls didn’t play with computers.” Another thought Ms. Cassell suggests for the drop in interest is the notion of being labeled a “nerd” or “geek” which may be unappealing to women.

Check out the full article here.