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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

Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

An Interview with the founder of Kolena Laila

Last month, at a conference in Beirut, I was fortunate to meet Eman AbdElRahman, founder of Kolena Laila (“We are all Laila”), an Egyptian initiative started in 2006 to devote a day, annually, to speak up about the problems facing oppressed women in the Arab region. In the past four years since Kolena Laila’s inception, it has grown to involve bloggers from most countries in the region, with around 150 participants in 2008.

I spoke to Eman about her hopes for Kolena Laila in the future.

Jillian York: What exactly prompted you to start Kolena Laila?

Eman AbdElRahman: I was talking to another blogger, Shaimaa Samir, and suddenly we found ourselves complaining about the same frustrations due to limitations applied by the society on us (as females). So I asked her, “What if the society woke up one day to find out that all females decided to speak up together.
and we decided that the first step can be in the blogosphere?” That night, we were in a virtual meeting with other 3 girls we’ve recommended.. and that was it, we put the plan and started working. Along with myself, the other founders are Mariam El Naqr, Zeinab Samir, Hagar el Tarabishy and Shaimaa Samir.

JY: You’re coming up on the fourth annual Kolena Laila day. What have you learned from the past 3 years and what do you hope to accomplish this year?

EA: I learnt that changes comes slowly.. and that the problems we suffer from now, are not just male-female struggle, but rather more of social issue that needs to be dealt with by the entire society.

I wish Kolena Laila to flourish more in the Arab world – so it can turn into linking efforts between similar organizations, campaigns, initiatives.. etc , advocating and encouraging women’s freedom of expression.

JY: How many women (and men) are involved in Kolena Laila each year?

In 2006, our main theme was speaking up! Five female bloggers from Egypt organized it, and about 70 female bloggers participated, with around 100 posts. We discussed topics from discrimination in upbringing to street harassment, and the initiative received reactions varying from sympathy and acknowledgment of problems to complete denial that such problems exist. In 2007, our main theme was Enabling Discussion, in 2008 it was to gather stories of women who don’t use the Internet. That year we grew to about 150 male and female participants, with about 350 posts published. I don’t have the statistics for 2009 yet, but instead of five organizers, we have 30+ from different countries in the region (instead of just Egypt), including Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya.

JY: What has been your experience in launching a project as large as this? Have you suffered any technical setbacks (filtering, DDoS attacks, hosting issues, etc)?

EA: Challenges we faced were mainly connected to synchronizing all volunteers’ work, as we’re each in a different country…also, trying to discuss all our different ideas and try to bring them closer.

JY: Do you have any advice for women in the Arab world in terms of getting started in building an online campaign or project?

EA: Just to be optimistic, and to keep going. There are frustrations they will face while working, but that should not affect their passion and dream. Networking is one of the most important things they should pay attention to. And should always have a list of close and “trusted” people, in different fields, to turn up to when they meet obstacles for advise. Always give credit to the ones who did something.. especially if it is volunteering work. To assign tasks to others, even small ones, but to make her team feel ownership of the campaign just like her.

Thanks to Eman for sharing her story. You can visit Kolena Laila online. The site is also available in Arabic.

Hiding Your Gender

Ever think that you might get further in your tech career if you were only a man?  James Chartrand of Men with Pens proved this theory to be correct.

There is no such thing as gender equality in technology.  Women must consistently prove themselves to colleagues over and over again.  But try representing yourself as a man, and all this changes.

“Taking a man’s name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service” says James.

But your tech cred doesn’t just drop because you’re a woman.  Your race, your accent, your weight, and even your clothes all come in to play.  And forget about getting any respect while your pregnant!

It’s not shocking to think that a person would hide behind an online persona to be judged on the merits of their work alone.  Have you tried it?  Would you like to?

Read more about James’ story here.

Rate Your Speaker

One of the laments you often hear at tech conferences is that there is a dirth of women speakers out there, and how do you find the ones that do exist.

Here’s what you can do to help.  Check out

Make sure the women speakers you have seen or know have a profile and rate the talk.  The presentations can and should include user group presentations etc.

If the woman in question doesn’t have a profile please email her and suggest she get one.

Post Workshop News

We can’t thank everyone enough who contributed and attended the Ruby on Rails Workshop for Women.  From the feedback, it appears to have been a tremendous success.

So cool that folks travelled to Boston from as far away as PA to attend Ruby on Rails Workshop for Women!!

…it makes a huge difference to be able to ask someone stupid ?s.

I like being able to say that I deployed my first Rails application today before lunchtime 🙂 like running a half marathon.

Totally impressed with the amount of Ruby and Rails info the students absorbed.

I want to thank the teaching assistants at #rorw4w. You were never judgmental and always patient.

You know what’s a lot of fun? TAing at #rorw4w.

It was indeed entirely attitude-free, as promised – unique in my experience! I appreciated that so much, and I had a lot of fun, as well.

Read about what our teachers thought about the workshop.  Sarah Allen wrote about Stone Soup and Andy Gregorowicz wrote about the workshop from his perspective.   Or just check out the tweet stream.

Moving forward, we encourage our newly empowered programmers to meet monthly at the Open Source Code Crunch.  If you want to stay in the loop, please join the OSCC mailing list.

Open Source Code Crunch

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.

The Open Source Code Crunch seeks to promote mixed gender collaboration. Programmers will meet monthly and use their skills towards open source projects in a welcoming, collaborative, attitude-free, newbie-safe environment.

First meeting will be on October 21st at 6pm
The Berkman Center
23 Everett Street, Second Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone (617) 495-7547

Please join our mailing list for future events and news.

Workshop to be Webcast thanks to Sponsors!

The Gender and Technology committee would like to thank all of our generous sponsors who are making this weekend’s Ruby on Rails Workshop for Women possible.  Thanks to them, attendees needn’t leave the workshop in search of coffee and food.  But more importantly, we will be webcasting the event live!  More details here.

While all our sponsors were enthusiastic about contributing towards childcare costs, Julia Ashmun was our sole individual contributor earmarking her donation to waive referral fees for attendees in need of sitter services.

Our first sponsor Hashrocket has got to be one of the coolest dev shops on the planet.  If only because Desi Mcadam works there, founder of DevChix.  Thanks for all your support, Desi!

Congratulations to EngineYard who just raised 19 Million with new investors. Nice to hear good karma coming back to good people.

We also send thanks to GitHub, the most popular Git hosting site.  Brought to you by Logical Awesome.  Don’t you just love that name?

And lastly we are grateful to RailsBridge for inspiring these workshops and reaching out to individuals and groups who are underrepresented in the community.

Thanks so much!!  Can’t wait to meet everyone tomorrow!

Ruby on Rails Event

The Berkman Center at Harvard University in coordination with the Center for Research on Computation and Society is putting together a Ruby on Rails workshop for women on October 16th and 17th.

We are seeking to create an attitude-free, newbie-safe and mama- friendly tech event to encourage women to join the Ruby on Rails community. Men are warmly welcomed when they find a woman who wants to learn Ruby on Rails who will register and bring a guest.

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

For more details, read on

The Motherhood Penalty

Last week, posted Fessing up to being a mom can backfire on job seekers. In this article, it explains that while women are protected against sex-based stereotyping under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “pregnant women and mothers are seen as less dependable, less authoritative, and less committed to their jobs”.

This is particularly true in male dominated fields such as technology where an employee is expected to devote significant off hours on the computer. Keeping up with industry blogs, maintaining website side projects and contributing to open source is becoming an expected norm among web developers. This makes it tough for parents of both genders to stay current, but its assumed that mothers can’t keep up.

So what do you think? Has the motherhood penalty affected your career? Are unrealistic expectations keeping women from pursing the geekier jobs in web/software development?

Girls in Tech Boston Event

This is a bit of short notice but nonetheless:

Girls in Tech | Boston

The Boston Chapter of Girls in Tech will be hosting a lifestyle panel discussion designed to explore the following issues:

* work/life balance
* career management
* leading a purpose-driven life


* 6:00 – 7:00 pm » Networking
* 7:00 – 7:45 pm » Panel Discussion
* 7:45 – 9:00 pm » Open Audience Discussion

Event Details

* Date » Tuesday, June 30, 2009
* Time » 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
* Location » 38 Cameron Gallery, Cambridge, MA

This event is FREE. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served. Reservations are required.
More info here.

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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