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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 rosalie

Calls for contributions on gender and development from GAID

The United Nations Global Alliance for ICTs (Information and Communications Technologies ) and Development (GAID) has invited the global online community to help it determine its themes for the coming year, with gender being one of the suggestions (the others are poverty eradication and financial crisis, climate change and education and health), with the purpose of aligning “itself more closely with the broader UN Development Agenda and addressing the critical issues that the world is currently facing.” To do this, GAID has set up four separate discussion groups, with the one on gender located at The overall purpose of the discussions is to ”’identify ideas and suggestions on how GAID can contribute with clear deliverables  to progress on these issues, using ICT.”
To my mind, this means how ICTs can help bring gender equity and meet the Millennium Development goals. In a way, the discussions are a sort of vote (although this is unsaid), with the one attracting the most interest standing the best chance of being accepted as a theme for GAID activities.
If you are not familiar with GAID (, It is a UN global forum, open to all, to address cross-cutting issues related to ICT in development. [And gender is certainly an issue that cuts across many aspects of ICT in development]. GAID’s aim is to broaden the dialogue on innovative ways of harnessing ICT for development, on the basis that “a people-centered and knowledge-based information society is essential for achieving better life for all.” I have listed below GAID’s specific objectives. GAID’s modes of operation include forums, consultations, meetings, blogs, publications, a web portal and the organization of networks, among others.
The discussion will continue until the third week of May. At its conclusion the two Communities of Expertise on gender within GAID- The International Task Force on Women and ICT and Gender, Development and Information Society Policies (GDISP) will synthesize the results of the discussion for presentation to the GAID Strategy Council meeting taking place in Monterrey, Mexico the second week of June.

Please visit the discussion site and contribute to it, on a regular basis if you can. Our charge is to suggest ways that GAID could advance gender equity using ICT.

GAID Objectives

The Alliance will seek to contribute to:

  • Mainstreaming of the global ICT agenda into the broader United Nations development agenda
  • Bringing together key organizations involved in ICT for development (ICT4D) to enhance their collaboration and effectiveness for achieving the internationally agreed development goals
  • Raising awareness of policy makers on ICT4D policy issues;
  • Facilitating identification of technological solutions for specific development goals and pertinent partnerships
  • Creating an enabling environment and innovative business models for pro-poor investment and growth and for empowering people living in poverty
  • Acting as a “think-tank” on ICT4D-related issues and as an advisory group to the Secretary-General.

EVENT: Navigating Gender & Sex ID in the K-12 Setting


From The Dress-Up Corner to the Senior Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexual Identity Development in the K-12 Setting

Do you have questions about how to address issues of gender and sexuality in the classroom? In schools? In districts? How do you respond when first graders start a debate about “boy” colors and “girl” colors? What happens when 3rd graders start using “that’s so gay” as a put-down? How do you help your gender variant 5th grader navigate the complex social world in school? Gender Identity and Sexual Identity are aspects of everyday life in K-12 schools, whether these issues are part of the formal curriculum or not. School age children develop their own personal identities- and learn about culturally sanctioned identities- all the time. By middle school and beyond, the stakes get higher. According to the 2007 GLSEN National School Climate Survey, 86% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44% reported being physically harassed and 22% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. LGBT students are at risk; students who are perceived to be LGBT are at risk. And all students, regardless of their identity, need accurate information and appropriate guidance regarding these issues. On April 9, 2009, an 11-year-old 6th grade boy who attended a charter school in Springfield, Massachusetts hanged himself after enduring chronic bullying from classmates, including daily taunts of being gay. This kind of tragedy can be prevented.

QueerEd and the Office of Student Affairs are sponsoring a workshop dedicated to starting the dialogue about LGBT issues in K-12 classrooms, featuring clips from the the award-winning documentary, It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School. ( The workshop will be facilitated by Jennifer Bryan, Ph.D. Dr. Bryan is a psychologist and consultant who specializes in helping educators consider gender and sexuality, as these issues relate to K-12 school life. ( We encourage educators with all backgrounds, identities, and experiences to bring their questions and join us for this important and interactive learning opportunity.

Light refreshments will be provided starting at 7:00 p.m.
When: Thursday, April 30, 7:15- 9:00 p.m.
Where: Larsen G08

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg And the Pursuit of Happiness

OPINION | April 23, 2009
And the Pursuit of Happiness: May It Please the Court
By Maira Kalman
After a visit to the Supreme Court, and the office of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Maira Kalman thinks about law, decision-making and women breaking barriers

“Gender and the Law: Unintended Consequences, Unsettled Questions”

Thursday, March 12, 2009


MENSPEAKUP, Tuesday April 28, 2009

This looks interesting. Anyone want to attend and blog on it?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall
Refreshments will be served
Please join us for the public launch of a new online initiative dedicated to showcasing the majority of Harvard men who care about ending sexual assault, promoting gender equality, and creating a positive dialogue.
This website is a student initiative and will serve as a platform for the community featuring psa clips, blog postings, and pledges of support from campus leaders and alumni.
The event is open to the public. Please join us on Tuesday and sign up on our Facebook Page

Supported by:

Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

Exploring the Gendered Web

Post by Morra Aarons Mele, consultant and blogger

I’m not a technologist and I can barely find my way around a piece of code. But I’ve been working on consumer-facing websites targeted to women on and off since 1999.  In 1999, when I worked at the young website, our pitch to advertisers went like this, “Women make 80% of purchasing decisions. Women are online, talking to each other about everything from relationships to health to their favorite diaper brands (except at this point, it was on message boards, not blogs or social media platforms like Twitter). Clients, who were mostly consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, bought ad space on iVillage to reach these influential, chattering women, in hopes that online users would buy, and talk about their products.

Today, the sales pitch on major social media platforms that cater to women is very similar, and now, women drive 82% of purchasing decisions. Some of the language is new: marketers want users to have “conversations” about their products, they want “brand evangelists,” and mostly, CPGs hope not to get slammed online (see the Motrin Moms case for a prime example). A big change is that while women on message boards in the 1990’s used handles or chose to remain anonymous, today’s online media stars use their real names and identities. Even more, many have become brands in their own right. But ultimately, the marketers’ goal is the same.

So enter social media, Web 2.0. Women and men use social media in equal numbers. Online social networks for women such as, Momversations, or MomsExtraordinaire on LinkedIn provide women safe and engrossing places to gather. Twitter users skew female, and according to TechCrunch, 60% of US Facebook users are women.  For many women, participating in a gendered version of the social web brings them access to new networks, professional opportunities, and self-realization. It also gives women power.

The co-founder of, the inimitable Jory des Jardins, sums up the power of her audience in this piece describing the growth of BlogHer’s power mom bloggers:

“As our online network grew, Moms became the largest segment. In a 2008 study comparing the readers of BlogHer Network bloggers versus the general population of U.S. women online, 46% of the 36 million women who actively blog every week have children living at home. Among Gen Xers who blog, the percentage increases to 67%. They trend above the general population in education, household income, and online spending….

And corporate America noticed: Companies such as P&G, GM, Kraft, Clorox, Wal-Mart, and countless others have sought MommyBloggers for their insights and online advocacy. PR agencies such as Fleishman Hilliard, Burson-Marsteller, and Ketchum have established Mom-focused practices and research.”

So the web has become a place where women can flex muscle, even as leadership roles for women in the corporate and political realms remain scarce. But what kind of power does the web afford these women? Has the rise of the social web reinforced traditional gender roles? It seems to me the social web has created a space where girls are more girly, boys will be even more like boys, and moms are uber?

At the Gender and Tech mini conference, law professors Dena Sacco and Diane Rosenfeld stressed how the ubiquity of online porn has a profound effect on how men see women, especially on how young men view young women. Does a nation of mommybloggers and giggling girls on MySpace also reinforce traditional gender stereotypes? We’re comfortable with women being outspoken on matters close to home. But while plenty of women bloggers write with intelligence and wit about everything from the economic crisis to foreign policy, they get rewarded (with advertiser money or media coverage) when they do stick closer to home. I don’t see that changing as social media becomes more ubiquitous; I see it being reinforced.

I don’t want to turn this into yet another piece debating the merits of mommyblogging (see Joanne Bamberger for that). I want to know:

Scholars, are you researching the gendered web and its affects on offline gender relations? Users, what impact do you think the gendered web has on gender relations?

Bloggers and those who participate as themselves in social media environments tend to act as their real selves, if not using their real names, at least assuming their real gender. At the Gender and Tech mini-conference, danah boyd referenced the early Internet scholars’ belief that the web would allow users to reject their everyday identity, including their real gender, in favor of a disembodied and free identity. In the 1990’s, Sherry Turkle and others pointed to the powerful impact of the Internet as a place to reconstruct gender and identity to suit one’s fancy, not reality. This didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite did.

As Vanessa Grigoriadis’ recent piece on Facebook notes: “Facebook’s relentless emphasis on literal representation…turns out to be the weapon to quell the web’s chaos. Now online life is a series of Victorian drawing rooms, a well-tended garden where you bring your calling card and make polite conversation with those of your kind…” To really use social media, we have to be real, but we can also be a little detached, a little less conscientious than we are in person. We also revert to behavior that comes naturally. Women like to talk a lot (see Susan Herring’s research on this) and men often use the opportunity to act like they’re on a bachelor weekend. Sexism comes too easily.

Social media spaces heighten the importance of gender, as we tend to congregate in places online with like-minded folks, and in places that feel safe. I can’t tell you how many progressive women I know who refuse to participate in the community because of the sexism of its commenters. Instead, these women choose to congregate in a more female, safer space. In a 2001 article, boyd wrote, “the reliance on sex as a marker of identity online has encouraged a certain kind of re-embodiment of users (as sexed beings), with an attendant sexualizing of cyberspace.”

Mommybloggers, feminist bloggers, and others who participate in the online community as a gendered being would proudly say, “exactly,” in response to boyd’s claim. But does this gendering of online spaces simply further traditional, limiting gender roles? Or is it an extension of natural social life? Or even worse, a reaction against the threat of bad behavior on the Internet?

Gender and Blogging in the Arab World

By Jillian C. York
The Arab blogosphere (encompassing blogs written in Arabic, English, and French, as well as a few stray languages) is a complex one. Whether from Morocco or Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Syria, almost every blogger in the Middle East and North Africa is up against censorship, cultural concerns, and the ever-present concern of surveillance.
Nonetheless, blogging has become a solitary platform for free speech in much of the Arab world. Because many bloggers in the region choose to remain relative anonymous (or pseudonymous), there is often little differentiation between male and female, particularly in blogospheres where political or human rights issues are avoided for risk of legal action. And while there are certainly well-known female bloggers discussing issues unique to women, many female bloggers in the Arab world face a unique challenge: to speak out about women’s issues often means going against the grain of family and society.

Still, for those who do, blogging is a potentially liberating experience. As Razan Ghazzawi, a Syrian female blogger says, “the space of the female is not the space of the male in this region – females have limited space to express their views inside their homes and in the streets. Not to mention the fact that they are subjected to sexual harassment in college, work, and in the streets.”.”  She goes on to say, however, that “you do not find bloggeresses speaking out about these things, and I think it’s because the blogging itself is masculine, in the sense that there is an invisible definition of what is blogging and how we blog.”  She also points out that many of the issues she mentions are unique to Arabic-language bloggers, as English tends to be more the domain of diaspora bloggers.

Shahrazad’s Blahs is a blog written by a Libyan woman; although her blog covers many topics from art to cooking, her posts are infused with concerns unique to women. In one recent post, she considered the concerns of female bloggers in Libya:

“Many Libyan female bloggers have either left the blogspehere all together or have made their blogs open to invites only. This is so sad as they were quite promising and happy in the beginning. Why is that one may ask ????The answer my fellow bloggers and readers is that they have been put into the so called pressured social paralysis situation where either the parents or some other family member has read the so called blog and disapproved of it existing.”

The post instigated a lively discussion of blogging in Libya and the greater Arab world, the consensus of which seemed to be that female bloggers are steadfast, and will continue blogging despite the obstacles they face for doing so.
Although there is not one simple answer for the complex issues facing these female bloggers in a complex reason, one thing is certain: Women are blogging at an ever-increasing rate in every country in the region, and women’s initiatives are popping up all across the board.

For more information on gender and blogging in the Middle East in North Africa, check out these links:
The Arab Observer: A Jordanian blogger who frequently discusses issues of gender and women’s rights.
Kinzi: A westerner living in Jordan who frequently blogs about women’s rights.
Kolena Laila: “We Are All Laila” – an Egyptian solidarity initiative for Arab women and bloggers.
Hala In USA: A blog post on gender roles by Hala, a Saudi Arabian blogger living in the United States.
Global Voices Online Special Topic: Gender

Kennedy presents 7 Threads of Second Wave Feminism

At the Gender & Technology Mini-Conference on March 18, 2009, HLS professor Duncan Kennedy presented 7 threads or topics in Feminism & Critical Legal Theory from second wave feminism (late 1970’s-Mid 1990’s). We’ve posted the video of his fifteen minute presentation and attached a graph of his framework.


7 Threads of the Second Wave

One of our goals for the mini-conference was to do some mapping of the theoretical space, and DK’s presentation provided a helpful historical sampling and much food for thought. We carefully selected the term “gender” to encompass the activities, areas of inquiry and scholarship that we hope to support with this Initiative, but we are also interested in understanding the impact of various schools of feminist thought on scholarship on gender in the digital space. At times these waves feel like a tapestry and at times feel like a snarl. We don’t know yet if these 7 threads are complete and/or are satisfactory, but they do mark a beginning and they indicate a possibility: how might a Second Wave Feminist framework apply to Gender & Technology studies?

NOLA starts SMS Crime Alert System

I’m just back from a week in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), where conversations around violence and community organizing have me thinking about technology, gender and digital activism.

Mac at Cemetary
I spent much of my time in the Bywater district of NOLA, where the city blocks are full of diversity, and community members feel integrated. Nevertheless, I was warned not to walk by myself-especially as a tourist and a woman–day or night. At the local coffeeshop there was a handmade ‘missing’ poster of a young woman who’d left a party on her bicycle this winter and had never been seen again.
Mac at Cemetary
It was eerie to feel in need of protection.  Partially out of desperation (and perhaps a bit out of bitterness), I called the phone number at the coffeehouse that promised it was doing something for the community about the neighborhood death toll.
Walking through NOLA gates

Reminder: NOLA has the highest murder rate in the country and the third largest in the world, said Lord David, the proprietor of the Skull Club in St Claude Arts District, a blogger on, and a community organizer for New Orleans Citizens Against Crime (NOCAC), the group I called for information and guidance.
cemetary stairs

In response to the violence and murders of many working in the hospitality industries of the French Quarter, coupled with the perceived lack of engagement by local law enforcement, NOLA residents have become proactive.

There’s the NOLA SMS CRIME ALERT NETWORK; launched in winter of this year in response to the murder of another woman who worked in the French Quarter. After her death, her friends began texting each other their own form of citizen crime reports to help one other get home safe.

MSNBC did a short video piece on the SMS Crime Alert project that’s worth checking out if you’re willing to wait 30 seconds while they stream advertisements.

MSNBC coverage NOLA SMS Crime Alert

Lord David told me that in NOLA, you get robbed, you walk away, and they kill you anyway. He used the words “insanely violent” and said that one way he vents, beyond blogging at Humid City, is to organize NOCAC community meetings that bring together police, government officials and the citizens of the community. Although the police have been responsive, their attention is mostly on the French Quarter where the tourists are, not the Bywater district where many employees of the French Quarter live.  There’s an issue about a police department station (or lack there of) and a Mayor who seems to be writing a book…

angel in cemetary
It’s the people’s organizing skills and tech savvy that have brought the SMS alerts and NOCAC about this year. Where they’ll go is anyone’s guess.  Lord David, on the personal activism and the political sensibility of the downtown Bywater community of NOLA, “I read about something like it in the 1960’s, but I’ve never seen anything like it before.  There’s an art movement in this area that rivals anything else.  Writers, artists…They don’t own property or hold public office. They’ve got nothing to lose.”

So I’m back up north, reading and writing. I’m thinking about gender and technology. I’m thinking about Duncan Kennedy’s feminist framework (we’ll post that tomorrow) and the radical feminism’s concern with violence. I’m wondering how a group like Gender & Tech could work with a group like NOLA SMS Crime Alerts.

If you know about any other SMS -crime interventions, shoot me a note. We’ve got a digital activism wiki going, and we’d love any add-on’s you’ve got.

If you’re going to NOLA, check out these resources. If you need a tourguide of the Bywater, contact Mac Taylor ( who’s got a nose for the grit and song of the city.

NOLA Text Alert Website –

St Claude Art District

Skull Club on Myspace

Lord David, among others, @ humid city

Rex Dingler & NOLA Rising

Gender & Cocktails this Friday at the Enormous Room

Here’s a post from our friends at the MIT Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies. I’ll be there and I’d love it if you were able to take a break and have a cocktail as well. –RFB

Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies at MIT

Graduate Students’ Happy hour

Take a break and join us on Friday, April 3, 5:30 – 7:30 PM at the Enormous Room at  567 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square.

Meet fellow graduate students from all participating GCWS institutions engaged in gender and sexuality studies, hear about our student programming, and participate in a discussion about how it might be enhanced.   The event is free  and refreshments are provided.  RSVP is required — please RSVP by Tuesday, March 31st,  to Andi Sutton at