Author Archives: macoafi

About macoafi

Programmer, SCAdian, and textile nerd

Finding more women to speak at Ohio LinuxFest: success!

This post is being cross-posted on Mackenzie’s blog.

Given Terri’s recent post about the same few women always being speakers, I thought this would be a good place to write about how one conference I help out with, Ohio LinuxFest, has tried to expand their array of women speakers. For those interested in pretty graphs, I’ve been graphing women speaker proportions at various LinuxFests on the GeekFeminism Wiki. This post was co-authored with Moose J. Finklestein, the Content Chair.

Some conference organisers will say “we didn’t get any submissions from women” to explain the lack of women on their stages. As of two years ago, the Ohio LinuxFest was in that category. With a little outreach effort, and embracing diversity as a core value, the Ohio LinuxFest has successfully recruited more women to share their experience at OLF.

How’d we do? While last year only five of the speakers at Ohio LinuxFest were women, out of a total of 31, this year 14 of the 38 speakers are women. That’s a third of the conference speaking slots! One of the two keynoters is a woman. There were 107 talk proposals for the 27 general speaking slots. Before anyone tries to suggest that we simply took them all, it should be noted that a full 48% of the proposals for talks categorised as not assuming high levels of prior knowledge (making them suitable for the most attendees) were from women.

We believe that much of this success is attributed to community outreach. This year, we contacted Ubuntu Women, Debian Women, LinuxChix, DevChix, and the FSF’s Women’s Caucus mailing list about the call for presentations, and did it have an effect!

Recognising the various concerns women speakers can face, we tried to specifically address potential issues in the email sent to women-focused mailing lists. Some of these known issues include lack of confidence in new speakers, not being clear what the intended audience is, or the “imposter syndrome,” where someone doesn’t recognize that they are qualified to speak on a topic. The woman to woman dialog made the difference.

We wanted to make sure people weren’t refraining from submitting because they lack confidence in their technical abilities (an excuse we’d heard before), so we explained the attendees’ demographics, hoping to get more proposals that would fill the gap we had for user-aimed talks. Ohio LinuxFest has everything from home desktop users who started using Ubuntu a week ago (or even that day!) to seasoned system administrators who love Slackware, Gentoo, or NetBSD. Nevertheless, beginner proposals have tended toward introduction to development topics, not leaving enough for people who want to be users, not developers. We also made sure to mention that it’s a great crowd who is very welcoming of first-time speakers.

Women are involved with more than just speaking at the Ohio LinuxFest. Beth Lynn Eicher has been actively involved as a director for 6 years now, and the current staff, all volunteers, is about 35% female.

The Ohio LinuxFest takes pains to create a weekend conference friendly to all people, not just women. The diversity statement includes gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, and even operating system — folks who don’t use Linux are just as welcome as those who love it. There are regularly talks about or including BSDs, interoperability in heterogeneous environments, and cross platform free software.

Additionally, all speakers are instructed to keep the content of their presentations clean. The Ohio LinuxFest bills itself as a family friendly conference and aims to keep it that way. As an effort to make a positive effect with the community at large, the Ohio LinuxFest will host the second annual Diveristy in Open Source Workshop on September 12, 2010.

Looking at the growing trend of more female influence on the OhioLinuxFest we’d like to see it be the leader for more women to attend and become more involved with other free software interests.

New Year’s Resolution: Ladies’ T-shirts

Ever notice how sites like ThinkGeek tend to have more tech shirts for guys and more geek subculture stuff for women? Take a look around a bit, I’ll wait. Back? OK. So I think what happens is that there are some women who see a design, like it, then get to the “aww, men’s sizes only? Fine, I guess I’ll get it even though it’ll fit funny” part. At least, I do that. I’m sure I’m not alone.

My new policy:
I will not buy geeky shirts which are only available in men’s sizes. If I really want it, a “I would have bought FOO, but it was only available in men’s sizes. Oh well. Maybe you’ll get my business some other time” email is in order.

Why? Well, I figure when I give in and buy a men’s t-shirt just because a women’s one isn’t available it sends the message that it’s perfectly ok to ignore women. Think about it. If you ran a business selling men’s stuff and women’s stuff, but you didn’t really need to offer much to the women (just enough to say “what? we have women’s stuff, in that little box in the back!”) to keep their business because they were willing to sacrifice and get the men’s version instead, why on Earth would you spend the money to keep women’s stuff in stock? Unless demand is made for a women’s version of a certain item, why bother, right? I think this is why ThinkGeek has so few techy women’s shirts. We’ll let our boobs be uncomfortably squished if it lets us show off our geek cred. They see no demand for techy women’s shirts but plenty for techy men’s because all of us women who give in and buy the men’s version when we want the women’s version are artificially inflating the men’s version’s sales!

So, that policy up there? That’s my 2010 New Year’s Resolution. Who’s with me? If everyone* who cared about making the option for a women’s shirt available boycotted shirts that only came in men’s sizes and informed the companies involved of why they lost a sale, think something could change? Let’s find out.

* “everyone” can include both women-who-prefer-men’s-style and men, if they agree that the choice should be there.

Hail and well met

One of my friends just got back from Pennsic, and I wish I could’ve gone, so you all get a nice Rennie-greeting.

I’m Mackenzie Morgan, but the Internet knows me as “maco” (provided I am not required to fill a char[6]) and if you’ve Googled for information on “no sound ubuntu jaunty” in the last few months, you’ve probably visited my blog. Funny bit is that the post everyone who Googles that is hitting was only relevant during alpha, but anyway… Though my blog is ostensibly about Ubuntu and neat things to do on it, it’s been turning into a little feminism rant place just like Skud’s, so I’m glad she made this blog. I also write for What Will We Use, a blog my friend Bethlynn started to track OS marketshare and how Linux can (back to Rennie mode) succeed in its Queste over the Dragonne of Redmond. So far 3 of the 4 of us who have signed on to write are women. If you’re interested in joining us, there’s a “Write for us” link at the top of that site.

If you couldn’t guess from the above paragraph, I’m a Linux user. Specifically, I use Kubuntu, the KDE version of Ubuntu. I’ve been using Linux since July 2006, and I started contributing patches in October 2007. Soon, I hope to be an Ubuntu Developer. I’m also entering my fourth year at George Washington University in Washington, DC, though it’s only my third year as a Computer Science student, since I started out majoring in International Affairs and Japanese. I wanted to get a chance to improve on the little bit of programming I studied in high school, so I started taking CS classes and eventually switched when the CS department and Japanese department had conflicting schedules. I now study Japanese and American Sign Language on my own.

OK, so I think we’ve established that geekiness is my thing (Linux: check; polyglot: check; history: check). How about feminism? As I said, my blog is starting to veer off into feminism. And well, I’m kind of sick of getting marriage proposals the moment someone realizes girl + talking about Linux, even if it’s a joke. It’s an old one. And gosh-darn-it, I’m not dating a developer so he can fix my bugs!

Also: I’m long-winded. Can you tell?