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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

How Working Couples Can Share It All: Getting to 50/50

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 5:00  7:00 p.m.
Radcliffe Gymnasium, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge
RSVP by April 6, to or at (617) 495-9143

A Conversation with the authors of Getting to 50/50, Sharon Meers (Harvard College 86) and Joanna Strober, followed by a discussion with Harvard working couples. Reception immediately following the discussion.

Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober are professionals, wives, and mothers with five young children between them. They understand the challenges and rewards of two-career households. They also know that families thrive not in spite of working mothers but because of them. After interviewing hundreds of parents and employers, surveying more than a thousand working mothers, and combing through the latest government and social science research, the authors have discovered that the entire family all reap huge benefits when couples commit to share equally as both breadwinners and caregivers. The starting point? An attitude shift that puts you on the road to 50/50plus the positive step-by-step advice in this book. Here are real-world solutions for parents who want to get ahead in their careers and still meet their family obligations.

Sharon Meers was a Managing Director at Goldman, Sachs & Co. until April 2005.
She serves on the advisory council of the Clayman Institute. Sharon and her husband, Steve, founded the Partnership for Parity at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Dual-Career Research Initiative at Harvard.

Joanna Strober is currently a Managing Director of a fund that invests in private equity partnerships at Sterling Stamos Capital Management.

Event Sponsored by the Harvard Dual-Career Research Initiative, Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development & Diversity and the Harvard Human Resources Office of Work/Life

Post Conference Download

Thank you to everyone who attended yesterday’s Gender and Technology Conference at the Berkman Center.  It was an amazing and overwhelming afternoon.  And while we wished we could have fit in more discussion on each topic, I hope that everyone had a chance to chime in and be heard.

The committee is still working on culminating thoughts, notes, bibliographies, etc from yesterday’s meeting.  A video of yesterday’s conference is forthcoming and will be posted to the blog as soon as we have it.  And while the Google Moderator tool wasn’t utilized as much as we would have hoped, there was a bit of action via Twitter which you can check out here:

We also have a good number of folks signed up to blog for the month of April.  Feel free to contact us if you would like to contribute.  We’re always happy to hear from you, so don’t be shy about emailing us if inspiration strikes later.

Unfortunately, we failed to mention our FaceBook presence yesterday.  The Berkman Gender and Technology facebook page can be found at:   This group has been somewhat neglected by the Berkman Committee and yet it boasts 1060 members and a number of interesting threads already in progress.  We’re hoping to revive it as a way to keep our conversations and momentum flowing.  

I’d like to start things off by initiating a renaming conversation.  In light of yesterday’s diverse conversations, what should the umbrella committee at Berkman call ourselves?  Log in and join the group to post a suggestion here:

You can also continue yesterday’s discussions via FaceBook here:

Thanks again for an amazing afternoon.  Please check back with us soon for more!

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 

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 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.

Birth of the Netbook

Mary Lou Jepsen, an LCD screen designer, was chosen to lead the development of the One Laptop Per Child project. With such tight constraints Jepsen needed to carefully craft the machine to sell for about $100.

Instead of using a spinning hard drive she chose flash memory—the type in your USB thumb drive—because it draws very little juice and doesn’t break when dropped. For software she picked Linux and other free, open source packages instead of paying for Microsoft’s wares. She used an AMD Geode processor, which isn’t very fast but requires less than a watt of power. And as the pièce de résistance, she devised an ingenious LCD panel that detects whether onscreen images are static (like when you’re reading a document) and tells the main processor to shut down, saving precious electricity.

Asustek crafted the EEEPC with concern that Jepsen’s OLPC machine would be a threat. Within a few months it sold out its 350,000 piece inventory. Turns out people wanted less out of their laptops and the netbook as been a success ever since.

Read the full article from Wired.

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.

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.