200 Girl Geeks in a room

And what happens then?  I attended the annual She’s Geeky unConference at the Computer History Museum in San Jose Feb 29-31, 2010 and had a great time.  Because, literally, no men are allowed (conference organizer’s rules – not mine), I thought I might share some of the highlights for the general developer population (my assumed blog audience).

Kaliya Hamlin (Identity standards expert and uber-geek) and her group of volunteers facilitate the 3-day unConference in a distinctive style.  The style of this conference is based on ‘Open Space’, that is a dynamic agenda, i.e. created on the beginning of each day.The twist is, of course, this is all [and only] technical women.   Shown below is Kaliya and the whiteboard at her session ‘The Future of Social Networks’.

Kaliya's whiteboard on Future Social Networks

First of all, simply to have 200-300 technical women together is relatively rare (at least in my experience).  The only other large gathering of technical women that I’ve attended is the annual Grace Hopper Conference.  While that conference is equally geeky, the most noticeable difference between these two conferences is that She’s Geeky attendees are from industry (most are already working), while GHC attendees are from academia (most are studying or teaching).

So, to the question then…’what do geek women want?’  Because She’s Geeky uses extensive and simple methods of capturing info, I can actually show you via photos I took while at the conference.

First, take a look at a part of the one day’s session wall (shown below).  Topics varied widely – from uber-geeky, such as ‘Command-line tricks’, to practical ‘Debugging for non-programmers’, to commercial ‘Pitching your startup – do’s and don’t’s’, to much more.  You’ll note the session I presented below ‘Teaching Girls to Program’.

session wall from She's Geeky

Here’s a picture of me teaching two attending girls to code in Small Basic (they are pair programming) as part of my presentation.  I am happy to report that the older girl’s mom blogged after the event that ”After that session, (my daughter) went home and spent all weekend, head-down, running through recipes in Small Basic.”

Girls Learning to Code

There were, in fact, a number of sessions about getting more women and/or girls into programming.  I spent some time talking with Sara Mei from San Francisco who has had success getting women started in programming teaching Ruby workshops.  Sara was inspired by my presentation to attempt to write a Logo-like IDE (i.e. Turtle-graphics) in a graphical-version of the Ruby language.  She and I made a plan to continue to share information about what we are learning when we teach.

So, besides sessions and talks, what else happens here?  Massive networking that’s what.  Information literally covers all of the walls.  Looking for a job?  Well, there’s a wall for that (shown below)

Job Board

In addition to that, there are walls for networking and women’s events to be held in the future (one part shown below).  It is always great to find out about new groups and/or events which are working to support Women in Technology.

Women and Tech Groups

One ‘trend’ in this year’s conference that I was particularly happy to see was the outreach to younger women (high school and college students) and even more attendees bringing their daughters to the conference.  Below is just one mom and her geeky (and stylish!) daughter.

Geek mom and geek daughter

All in all, it was another great She’s Geeky event and I caught up with women geeks I already knew as well as made many new connections.  I really don’t know where else I could find sessions on ‘Bee Keeping’, ‘Windows 7’, and  ‘Personal Genome Citizen Science’ in the same room (see picture of topics below)!

Friday's topics

Happy Programming!

Comments (4)

  1. Looks like a great event! Bring daughters along is an awesome idea.

    Wonder how they get away with "no males allowed" with all the anti-discrimination laws around.

  2. Beth says:

    Ug, I’m so sorry I missed it. Loved it last year!  Thanks for the post on the wall. 🙂  See you next one (west side, anyway –

  3. Daryl Boman says:

    The conference looks very organized. Did you find any differences in the way it is organized when you have a co-ed get together?

    I’m kind of curious to know.

  4. Larry says:

    Very cool.  Thanks for your effort inspiring the next generation.

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