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.

Corporate Sponsors:




Individual Sponsors:

Julia Ashmun

Author Archive for Liana Leahy

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Gender and Technology Mini-Conference

The Gender and Technology Group at the Berkman Center is hosting a mini conference this Wednesday, March 18th from 1-5 PM in the conference room.   If you are interested in attending, please contact  womenintech at 

Gender and Technology Group The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard

The Berkman Center’s Gender and Technology Group promotes academic and other interdisciplinary approaches to the relationship between gender and technology in the digital age. As part of this mission, the Group is convening a working session on March 18th to:

• Explore a variety of academic approaches to the relationship between gender and technology, and consider their relevance to the Berkman Center’s work;

• Build community around gender and technology issues, studies, and activities; and,

• Develop a slate of related activities for the coming year. Among other activities, the Group is considering a larger conference at which academics, technologists, policy-makers, business people, activists, and students will explore how to incorporate a gender dimension in their technology-related work.

Gender and Technology Group Goals

This committee will explore how the Berkman Center can support conversations and activities related to gender and technology along three tracks:

• Research. Support, discuss and examine various perspectives on bringing a gender framework to technology-related work across contexts including academic research, law, policy-making, advocacy, technical development, and business;

• Leadership. Leverage Berkman’s role as a hub for technology-related scholarship and dialogue to bring to the forefront people—at Berkman, at the University and elsewhere—who incorporate consideration of gender into their work in ICT;

• Community. Build a network of academics, staff, students, alumni, and other community members interested in bringing a gender focus to their work. This community-building supports Berkman’s transition from a Center within the Law School to one that is more integrated into the wider University community.

Mini Conference

Wednesday March 18

Introduction 1:15-5:00 PM

The goal of the March 18th working session is to surface a sampling of key perspectives and scholarly approaches to discourse around gender in the digital age. The afternoon will consist of a series of short presentations, working sessions, and conversations facilitated by academic researchers, technologists, and lawyers, all of whom bring a gendered perspective to areas of their work. In addition to discussing the substance of these individuals’ work, we will discuss what Berkman’s role should be in fostering future research, discussions, or activities in this area.

For each session, speakers will be asked to make remarks from 10-15 minutes, to be followed by facilitated discussion 10-15 minutes. The final session will focus on develop actionable next steps. Details of the agenda follow.

1:15-1:30 PM Opening Remarks/Introductions/Framing the Key Issues

The Gender and Technology Group

1:30 -1:45 PM Framing/Contextualizing Gender

Follow-up comments by Duncan Kennedy

How do unsettled questions regarding the meaning of gender present a broad range of challenges, to academics, students, and technologists who seek to bring a gender analysis to their work? How do varying historical, political and cultural perspectives shape scholarship and meaningful dialogue around this topic area? How can we develop a research framework for approaching the relationship between gender and technology?

1:45 – 2:15 PM Gender and IT Research I

Looking at Gender in Empirical Research on Technology Usage

Remarks by Eszter Hargittai.

Eszter Hargittai is a sociologist focused on examining the social and policy implications of information technologies, with a particular interest in how IT may contribute to or alleviate social inequalities. Although not the focal point of her work, gender dynamics have often emerged in the context of her empirical research. For example, existing literature on gender and technology use suggests that women and men differ significantly in their attitudes toward their technological abilities, with the dominant assumption (held by both men and women) that women are less adept or sophisticated in their technological know-how than men. However, work by Hargittai has found that men and women do not necessarily differ greatly in their online abilities; rather, it is their

perceptions of their abilities that varies. Nonetheless, even mere perceptions – despite not necessarily reflecting actual disparities in skill – can translate into differential online behavior. How are certain assumptions about gender both recreated and recast during Web usage? What are the implications for social inequality? How does a consideration of digital media use by gender enhance our understanding of the social, political, economic and cultural implications of information and communication technologies?

2:15-2:30 PM Moving Into the International Arena

Looking at Gender and ICT on a Global Scale

Remarks by Nancy Hafkin.

In moving from developed to developing countries, how does the gender dimension change? How do gender issues become sharper as the gaps in access, income, education, and mobility between most men and women become starker, and the access to information technology much more difficult than in developed countries? What dimensions does ICT4D (Information Technology for Development) add to gender and technology?

2:30-3:00 PM Gender and IT Research II

Looking at Gender in the Context of Trust and Online Identity

Remarks by Judith Donath.

Gender ranges from being a physical category to an identity performance, and therefore more than a basic binary physical distinction. I’ll give a brief history of work on gender online and about the extensive gender deception online and its costs and benefits. I’ll frame this with Alan Turing’s 1950 article “On computing machinery and intelligence” which started the field of AI, and begins with a parlor game of gender deception (and then segues into the question of whether machines could be intelligent – and the knowability of other minds). What is it that we want to know about the other in cyberspace (clearly a context dependent question) and how does looking at the specific issue of gender help clarify thinking about this large and complex issue?

3:00- 3:15 PM Coffee Break

3:15- 3:45 PM Gender and Legal Practice

Remarks by Diane Rosenfeld and Dena Sacco. Conversation facilitated by Phil Malone.

What is the role of the Internet in both furthering and undermining law enforcement efforts with gender dimensions? For example, what are the positive roles that technology can play in keeping track of batterers? On the other hand, how do digital technologies expand access to adult and child pornography, and what are the subsequent implications for gender violence?

3:45-4:15 PM Gender, Technology and Computer Science

Introduction by Liana Leahy. Remarks by Margo Seltzer. Conversation facilitated Elizabeth Stark

What are the factors and challenges effecting gender balance in computer science and technology? How do gender considerations have a role in your work? (For example, how different will video games be now that more women are involved in writing them these days?) What are the issues and strategies involved in creating leadership, promotion and tenure opportunities for women in the sciences at Harvard and beyond? How can younger women be brought into IT, both as technologists and technical and social entrepreneurs?

4:15-5:00 PM Wrap-Up: Approaching Gender in the Digital Age

Conversation facilitated by Terry Fisher.

• Brainstorming Next Steps

o Research: How can existing approaches to gender analysis be brought to bear on key Berkman research areas? What do we need to develop a theoretical framework?

o Community: What role should this group play at Berkman and beyond? How can we expand our network?

o Future Conference: What are the key questions? Topic areas? People?

• Solidifying, summarizing, mapping areas of interest/different approaches

All participants will be invited to post their reflections in the weeks that follow the conference.

Optional Dinner


March 5th, Thursday 5-7pm Radcliffe Gym

Join prominent women leaders in a moderated panel discussion on women’s critical place in university leadership at Harvard and beyond.  The panel will be followed by small group discussions, facilitated by leaders throughout the university.  Dinner will be served!  Please RSVP to  hcwc at by Monday March 2nd.


Barbara Kellerman – James McGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership, Founding Director of the Center for Public Leadership Harvard Kennedy School


Jacqueline Bhabha – Lecturer in Public Policy and Director of the University Committee on Human Rights Studies and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Harvard Kennedy School and Faculty of Arts & Sciences

Judith Glaven – Associate Dean for Basic and Interdisciplinary Research Harvard Medical School

Ann Braude – Director of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program and Senior Lecturer on American Religious History Harvard Divinity School


This event is cosponsored by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, the Harvard College Women’s Center, the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs, and the Office of Career Services.

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.

Gender and the Law: Radcliffe’s 7th Annual Gender Conference

Radcliffe Gymnasium 10 Garden Street, Radcliffe Yard
Thurs., Mar. 12, 2 – 5 pm Fri., Mar. 13, 9 am – 5:30 pm
Admission is free and registration is required.
Registration will open on Fri., Jan. 30

Gender and the Law: Unintended Consequences, Unsettled Questions

Unsettled questions of gender and the law present a broad range of challenges in courtrooms, legislatures, and everyday lives. Laws meant to protect or promote gender equality may have unintended consequences, and laws that seem irrelevant to gender may nonetheless significantly impact gender issues. This conference will convene judges; legal practitioners; and scholars of law, the humanities, and the social sciences from around the world to explore the ways in which legal regulations and gender influence each other. From varying historical and cultural perspectives, participants will address legal encounters with gender in the essential spaces of daily life: the body, the home, school, work, the nation, and the world.


    Thursday, March 12, 2009

Session I: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Conversation with Linda Greenhouse ’68

Session II: Gender and Schooling

Panel Moderator: Martha Minow, Harvard University, Law Sandra Lea Lynch, Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals, First Circuit Katharine Bartlett, Duke University, Law Lenora Lapidus, American Civil Liberties Union, Law Kimberly Jenkins Robinson, Emory University, Law

    Friday, March 13, 2009

Session III: The Market, The Family, and Economic Power

Panel Moderator: Janet Halley, Harvard University, Law Beshara Doumani RI ’08, University of California at Berkeley, History Vicki Schultz, Yale University, Law Gillian Lester, University of California at Berkeley Chantal Thomas, Cornell University, Law

Roundtable Moderator: Margaret H. Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Lisa Duggan, New York University, Cultural Historian Sharon Rabin-Margaliot, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel, Law Mona Zulificar, Shalakany Law Office, Cairo Alice Kessler-Harris RI ’02, Columbia University, History Philomila Tsoukala, Georgetown University, Law Ying Sun, TAOS, Activist for Labor Issues in China

Session IV: Gendered Bodies, Legal Subjects

Panel Moderator: Jeannie Suk, Harvard University, Law Kendall Thomas, Columbia University, Law Cecelia Medina Quiroga, Judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Karen L. Engle, University of Texas at Austin, Law Hauwa Ibrahim, 20082009 Rita E. Hauser Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, Aries Law Firm, Nigeria

Session V: Gendered States of Citizenship

Panel Moderator: Jacqueline Bhabha, Harvard University, Law and Public Policy Linda K. Kerber, University of Iowa, History Ayelet Shachar, University of Toronto, Law Brenda Marjorie Hale, the Right Honorable, the Baroness Hale of Richmond, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Privy Council, House of Lords Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago, English Reva Siegel, Yale University, Law

For more information, visit or call 617-495-8600.

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.

National Symposium for the Advancement of Women in Science in Harvard Yard

National Symposium for the Advancement of Women in Science 2009 February 6-7, 2009 in Harvard Yard Hosted by WISHR, Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe.

NSAWS is an event taking place every other year organized by Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe (WISHR).  The fifth conference is planned to take place on Harvard college campus on February 6-7, 2009. With the university-wide commitment to communication between experts in all fields, we hope to bring together a diverse group of scientists engaged in inter-disciplinary research, in line with our conference theme of “Crossing Borders.”

Since its founding in 1989, Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe (WISHR) has grown into a large multi-faceted organization devoted to fostering a sense of community and solidarity for the undergraduate women engaged in science at Harvard College.  WISHR provides a support network and resource base in addition to fostering discussion on women s issues and providing inspiration and encouragement for those pursuing science-related careers.

The National Symposium on the Advancement of Women in Science (NSAWS) has been a significant addition to WISHR s program.  NSAWS serves to raise awareness of current issues facing female scientists and to encourage women to take leadership roles in scientific fields.  In the spring of 2000, the first NSAWS addressed the developing role of women in science to an audience of several hundred undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, and professionals. Since then, NSAWS has continued to draw leaders in science from all across the nation to discuss strategies to increase women s participation in science.

See the full schedule and register here:

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