Where Are the Women in Makerspaces?

Where Are the Women in Makerspaces?
Photo by Corinne Warnshuis
Photo by Corinne Warnshuis
This article appeared in Make: Vol. 40.
This article appeared in Make: Vol. 40.

If you’ve been to your local hackerspace/makerspace and noticed there weren’t many women, did you stop to wonder why? Unfortunately a common reaction is to think, “I guess women just aren’t into hacking or building stuff.” As one of the few female directors of a U.S. makerspace, I know this just isn’t true. Here’s my perspective on the problem and what can be done about it.

When I was nominated to be director of The Hacktory, I decided to give it a try in an attempt to make the organization as inclusive as possible. Today The Hacktory, based in Philadelphia, has a pool of volunteers and organizers that is close to 50/50 men and women, tilting more towards women.

Frustrated with conversations about the gender gap that we witnessed at many tech conferences, we decided to take a deeper look at the issue. We designed a brief presentation and a workshop we call “Hacking the Gender Gap,” where participants share positive and negative experiences they’ve had with technology. All the experiences are written on large Post-its, and placed on a timeline delineating relative age. The workshop concludes with a group analysis and discussion of where the positive and negative experiences cluster, and other emergent themes. The stories provide an incredibly rich context in which to understand how the gender gap is experienced in day-to-day life.

In the age range from birth to 10 years, many positive stories involve doing a tech-oriented activity with a parent, like learning to program or working with power tools. Another theme is a family member purchasing a computer or video game system, which participants use to build websites or gain confidence in their skills.

CampCrescent2013-crop

In the teen years, negative stories of teachers, guidance counselors, or other advisors discouraging girls’ interests or questioning their abilities in STEM subjects are frequent. Some comments seem unintentional, like a tutor saying, “I don’t know why this is so difficult for you — it’s so easy.” Others are brutal, like a female chemistry teacher with a Ph.D. telling students, “Women are bad at science.”

Before designing this workshop, our team thought these kinds of experiences were in the distant past, but we’ve gathered many stories that occurred five years ago or less.

When reading through the stories, women often say, “I thought it was just me!” Many participants express relief and thanks for the chance to share their experiences — both positive and negative — in a non-judgmental environment, and have those experiences contribute to a larger outcome.

The results became more interesting with mixed-gender crowds. One crucial theme that emerged from the men’s stories was frustration with women asking for help with a technical problem, following the assumption that men can fix it just because they’re male. These stories helped us understand how our culture’s association of masculinity with technical ability can be perpetuated by all genders.

In our research, we found the 2002 study “Women in Computing Around the World,” which details how other countries don’t have the same gender gap in STEM interests or careers. Female students in China have shown to be much more confident in their abilities with computers than male students. In Thailand, Italy, and Kenya, men were significantly more anxious than women about using technology.

Our most significant takeaways from doing this workshop include:

  • Gender gap research in the U.S. lacks context. Recent studies seek to identify the age when girls “lose interest” in STEM fields, rather than the experiences that contribute to that shift.
  • Women experience direct and indirect discouragement from teachers, guidance counselors, and tutors, something most men never experience.
  • The gender gap is perpetuated by all genders, adding to its pervasiveness.
  • Supportive or discouraging comments stay with people for years.

Jewelry20111

So what can a hacker/makerspace do to encourage women to start participating in their space and retain them? A good first step is to question the assumptions and biases present in your space. When a woman walks through your door, is the general assumption that she must be a beginner or that she’s tagging along with someone else? Such assumptions may be based in real experiences, but to address this problem, lay these experiences aside.

There’s something called “Imposter Syndrome,” which is a constant comparing and questioning of one’s own abilities to those of others, and a fear that you’ll be revealed to not know as much as you claim. Women in science and tech fields experience this self-doubt at a very high rate, often halting them from revealing the skills and understanding they possess.

If your space has several women, including women in leadership positions, you’re in good shape. To grow and empower this group, consider the following.

Conduct an anonymous survey about what’s working and not working for the women in your space. A lot of women won’t voice issues to not rock the boat or because they just don’t have the energy and are willing to put up with irritating conditions.

Screen shot 2014-06-01 at 10.39.12 PM

From the issues they raise, ask them to prioritize three things to address with immediate action without a vote from the larger group. A vote is exactly how the existing way of doing things will continue to reinforce itself, without allowing the concerns of this minority to be addressed.

Provide visual cues for women to show them they’re welcome. This could include a designated greeter for your open house who wears a special pin or name tag. Other cues could include a well-thought-out and enforceable conflict resolution or “no jerks” policy displayed prominently in your space.

Hold open shop time or design classes for artists, crafters, or creatives. More women are comfortable identifying as these titles rather than as hackers or programmers. Many spaces have found success with offering classes for “women and their friends.” This could be a good way to get more women to set foot in your space. Naturally, it would be ideal for a woman to take the lead in organizing such events.

If your hacker/makerspace has no women or just one, unfortunately it may be difficult to change. Evaluate if the regulars feel that the lack of diversity is something that “just happened” or a big problem. If the former attitude prevails, this group may view the tech world as a meritocracy and may reject the idea that the forces of culture and stereotype hold women back. Without the understanding that the urge to explore science, technology, and physics is an innately human thing, this group may not be able to suspend their judgment and make the changes necessary to attract women and other minority groups.

Rather than trying to change this underlying perception, find others in your community who share the value of inclusion, and start your own space. The time you invest in growing this space will pay off much faster than you imagine.

0 thoughts on “Where Are the Women in Makerspaces?

  1. Lisa Palmieri, Ph.D. says:

    Check out our new initiative “tinker squads” kicking off this summer. HS girls mentoring MS girls: http://hivepgh.sproutfund.org/project/tinker-squads/

  2. Susan McRorie says:

    There are more women in technology than there used to be but there’s still a gap. I’m a SysAdmin and have been in the IT field for nearly 20 years. Years ago, there were two female programmers and I was the only female SysAdmin in the entire company. Being a girl and also having a “cute” Southern accent, I had to work extra hard to prove myself and I did. I finally earned respect from the guys. Why is there a stereotype that girls aren’t good at Math or Science? I’m a Math whiz and I can thank my supergenius Mom helping me with homework for that. If she had the opportunity, she could’ve been an electrical engineer. I was having a hard time understanding division and fractions and she explained it to me in a way that I finally got it. Math is the language of the universe.

    Doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, don’t let anyone discourage you and tell you that you can’t do something. With hard work and determination you can do anything you set your mind to. Having opportunities open up help as well.

    1. Mathew says:

      I’m a male, yes, however I agree with you, I think the gap between men and women in the industry should be much, much, smaller. The stereo-type of men working with technology should be dropped as these aren’t tasks that women would necessarily be bad at, infact in most cases they are equally as capable if not more.

      These jobs aren’t made up of tasks that require masculinity, such as labour eg Heavy Lifting, in fact it is quite the opposite, working in the tech industry requires patience and precision which is not something men are too famous for :P; the mathematical and other mental requirements are not a limiting factor either, out of all the top scoring graduates in my area last year, about 40% were women. In fact, the top position in the area was a draw, between a male and female.

      I think what is still causing this gap is the mindset of the people. Girls feel it is a males area and leave it. I’d say the field of technology is targeting males more so than females, and this may be true in other places. However at the college I am workng at. The teacher of the software development course is female, there are a heap of scolarships for girls in this field (notably more than there is for boys) however, this class struggles to get any girls in the class, and if it does, it struggles to keep them.

      I feel over time this may change though, as I am seeing more and more women around this industry. Who knows, maybe one day men will be thinking technology is a girls thing and we will struggle to get more men.

  3. SeanReynoldsCS says:

    Meyers Briggs can help identify Science Potential within a student in a gender neutral way.

    True happiness in one’s career comes from identifying 3 things: What you’re good at, What the world needs and What you enjoy.

    Meyers Briggs can help you understand what you enjoy.

    Counselors can help you understand what the world needs.

    You have to work to be good at anything, even if it comes naturally you still have to pursue and learn your field.

  4. Sharon Wildwind says:

    Start early. Give girls and young women tools, materials, and classes for winter holidays, birthdays, and other special events. I’ve had my own tool box since I was nine.

  5. Chris Smith says:

    My first reaction to this post was “where exactly are all the male makerspaces?” but on actually reading it there are some fantastic points.

    I don’t think anybody wants to see an all women makerspace but one thing we all want to see is gender, religion and ethnicity a non issue and our spaces be inclusive for all. That said, there are a few makerspace equivalents out there such as the “womens institute” or “mens sheds” that are specifically created with a gender focus in mind (not that they discriminate, both usually allow men/women to join) and these are a positive force.

    In my opinion the biggest thing we can simply do by promoting more women in makerspaces (or STEM in general) is simply don’t put them off coming to them.

  6. terre says:

    One issue that seems obvious (to me!) is that there are few if any shop classes or even ‘home’ economics classes in regular high schools. Why is this? When I have proposed even a club after school, the principal, teachers and even some parents tell me that the barrier is ‘liability’. Really? We can’t teach teenagers to follow rules or don’t use equipment? The intersection of tech with manufacturing and economic development in a community is necessary if we are to keep job growth local, and healthy, by encouraging innovation, collaboration, and experimentation. Science, math and tech are being blurred in jobs such as food security, the arts, and healthcare, with education being the catalyst that drives interest in new opportunities. And while social media is prevalent, it’s still society that is central in new movements.

Tagged

I am an artist, designer, and maker. As the Director of The Hacktory, I am working to create a beginner-friendly environment where anyone can explore their interests in technology and art. Last year I had the honor of being named Philly's "Hacker of the Year" by the blog Geekadelphia. I also work as a designer at the Action Mill, a company that designs tools to improve how people work, transform complex systems, and create more meaningful connections.

View more articles by georgiaguthrie
Where Are the Women?

IntrotoSolderingAmy

If you’ve been to your local hacker/makerspace and there weren’t many women, did you stop and wonder about that? I hope so, but unfortunately a common reaction is to think, “I guess women just aren’t into building stuff.” As one of the few women directors of a U.S. makerspace, I know that this just isn’t true. In this and future posts I’d like to share my perspective on the problem, and what I think can be done about it.

At The Hacktory in Philadelphia, Pa., getting more women involved in our organization and creating a welcoming environment for everyone has become one of our defining strengths.

When I was nominated to be the director of The Hacktory a few years ago, I doubted that I had enough technical expertise, but I decided to give it a try because it seemed like a huge opportunity to make the organization as inclusive as possible. Today The Hacktory has more female-bodied organizers than male-bodied ones, and everyone continues to develop and reveal technical skills that are really amazing.

Frustratingly, at many tech conferences we’ve attended, panels on the gender gap often devolve into blame sessions rather than focusing on what to do about it. So, last year when The Hacktory was asked to provide a workshop for the first Women in Tech Summit in Philadelphia, we decided to take a deeper look at the issue of the gender gap in tech specifically. We were inspired to do this first after hearing many illuminating stories from our volunteers.

Many of us had been interested in science, math, and technology as kids, and then drifted away from it at some point. Often this happened in our late teens, but then we found our way back through a work environment or a hobby, or both. According to official research, such as the 2010 study “Why So Few?” by the AAUW, girls start to lose interest in STEM topics around middle school. We wondered if the experiences of these girls “losing interest” had anything in common with ours. Though we couldn’t ask the girls who had been studied in the official research, we could start collecting stories from those in our community.

From my training as a strategic designer, I knew that stories are a powerful way for people to comprehend data and experience. Understanding the problem of the gender gap as it is experienced on an individual day-to-day level could give crucial context. My hope was that themes and patterns would emerge from this additional information that could be used to form actionable steps to change the situation.

With the help of Stephanie Alarcón, a Hacktory organizer who had already done a significant amount of research on the gender gap, and our awesome team at The Hacktory, we created a workshop to do just that. Along the way I got some feedback from my colleagues at the Action Mill, a strategic design company where I work. They helped me simplify the activity and instructions to maximize its impact.

In our workshop, Hacking the Gender Gap, we present a brief overview of the published research on the gender gap and women’s history in computing. Then we pass out two different colors of large Post-Its and markers. On one color, we ask participants to write a story of a negative experience they’ve had with technology. On the other color, we ask them to write a positive experience. Additional information such as the age and year the experience happened are also requested. For our purposes, we define “technology” as whatever comes to mind for the participants. It could be software, hardware, hand tools, or video games. When they’re finished, everyone places the stories on a timeline taped on the wall, ordered by the how old the participants were when the experiences happened. As a group, we read the stories and discuss the themes that emerge, and what could be done to encourage more of the positive experiences and prevent the negative ones.

Hacking the Gender Gap Timeline
Hacking the Gender Gap workshop (photo by Corinne Warnshuis).

We’ve done the activity six times now, in six different groups, and in each instance, the room goes quiet as we read the Post-Its. Many of the experiences are similar from one group to the next, and the same themes have emerged in every group, but the individual stories are incredibly compelling.

Many positive stories involve a fun tech-oriented activity with a parent, like learning to program or working with power tools. Another common theme is a family member getting the individual a computer or video game system, which they use to build websites or gain confidence in their skills. As the ages increase, stories about figuring out a tough technical problem are also more frequent.

PositiveStories
Themes From the positive stories.

Stories of supportive comments by a teacher, tutor, classmate, or co-worker appear often, which shows how much of an impact they make, in the moment and for many years afterward.

Every group has several negative stories of teachers, guidance counselors, or other advisors being directly discouraging of girls’ interest or questioning their abilities in technology, science, or math. Sometimes the comments are probably unintentional, like a computer science tutor saying, “I don’t know why this is so difficult for you, it’s so easy.” Sometimes they are direct and brutal, like a female chemistry teacher with a Ph.D. telling her students “women are bad at science.” When we sort the stories by year, these stories appear in every decade, which indicates that the old stereotype that “girls are bad at math and science” is still shockingly pervasive.

NegativeStories
Negative themes have emerged too.

Work environments are another common setting for discrimination or alienation that make participants feel extremely frustrated and helpless. Computer science departments in colleges and universities are especially hostile, though it’s sometimes hard to tell whether they are more hostile to women or beginners.

These themes are anecdotal and definitely subjective, but after each group reads through the stories and we ask for their thoughts, they voice the same interpretations. If you’d like to read the stories yourself, they are up on our Flickr page.

When reading through the stories we often hear women say, “I thought it was just me!” Recognizing that we have so much experience in common is really empowering. Many women express relief and thanks at being able to share their experiences, both positive and negative, in a non-judgmental environment, and have those experiences contribute to a larger outcome.

The results became more interesting and nuanced when we held the activity with a mixed-gender crowd. The first time we did was last summer at HOPE, a large hacker conference. After we had passed out the Post-Its and markers and given the instructions, some of the men looked puzzled. After a few moments one of them asked, “What do you mean by a ‘negative’ experience with technology?” This question was something we had never heard before. Further discussion revealed that he had experienced his share of negativity in tech, but the instances all involved other people, not the technology itself. This seemed like an important distinction to us, and something women can definitely relate to.

A Few Stories from Men
Stories from men.

One important theme that emerged from the men’s stories was frustration with women asking for help with a technical problem, with the assumption that the men can fix it just because they are men.  These stories helped us understand for the first time how our culture’s association of masculinity with technical ability is perpetuated by people of all genders. In my opinion this point is pivotal, because it shows how the problem is systemic and no one single group is to blame for it.

The stories we’ve gathered also show an incredible range of technology involved, from coding with pencil and paper, to building websites at the age of nine. Imagining early experiences with such different technologies has made us wonder if this is another kind of gap, one of age and type of technology, that further hinders people from relating to each other’s experiences in the tech world. There are probably other gaps based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and whether the participants self-identify as “tech-savvy” or not. We’re interested in exploring all of these and sharing our findings.

Our next iteration of the workshop is a web app to display and collect stories from anyone, with the ability to filter the stories by criteria such as the type of technology used, the situation (school, work, etc.), age, and calendar year. We are also creating a facilitator’s kit with instructions and presentation materials for anyone to lead the workshop in their local makerspace, school, or workplace.

As we presented Hacking the Gender Gap at other tech events over the past year, we learned a lot more about this issue. Several people from The Hacktory went to AdaCamp DC last summer, an event put on by the Ada Initiative, an organization striving to increase women’s participation in open source projects and technical professions. I learned an incredible amount at this conference, more than I can share here, but there were a few key points that are extremely relevant to our workshop:

Other countries don’t have the same gender gap in STEM careers, or the same association of masculinity and technical ability. A variety of factors contribute to this, and the result is wildly different perceptions of male and female technical ability from country to country. For example, female students in China have shown to be much more confident in their abilities with computers than male students. In Thailand, Italy, and Kenya, men were significantly more anxious than women about using technology. You can read more about these findings in the 2002 study “Women in Computing Around the World.”

There is something called Impostor Syndrome, which many professionals experience, especially women. It’s the fear that at any moment someone will question your credentials and determine you to be a fraud. This feeling makes women a lot less willing to speak up about technical topics because they think, “I don’t know every single thing about this so I’m not an expert and should keep quiet.”

Discrimination among adults in the tech world is widespread, and some of it is pretty extreme. Many women at tech conferences have experienced physical and emotional abuse and harassment. Discrimination through comments and trolling is pervasive and well-documented in the gaming world and in the open source community. The website GeekFeminism.org has a timeline where anyone can submit a relevant incident. Unsurprisingly, this makes women wary of becoming involved in their local tech or maker scene.

So what can a hackerspace/makerspace do to get women to start participating in their space and retain them? I’d like to explore this topic more in my next post, and share some of what we’ve learned at The Hacktory.


Georgia Guthrie is a designer and maker based in Philadelphia, Pa. She works at the Action Mill, where she uses design thinking to help solve big, intangible problems. Georgia is also the director of The Hacktory, where she works to create opportunities for anyone to creatively tinker and learn about technology.

31 thoughts on “Where Are the Women?

  1. Antony Riakiotakis says:

    Great read, very interesting! Maybe we should organize such events in Greece where it’s extremely evident that there’s male bias towards technical involvement. Thankfully some local hackerspacesm such as “tolabaki” enjoy a healthy female involvement.

    1. georgiaguthrie says:

      That’s great Antony, does the Tolabaki space have a website?

  2. jstults says:

    Where are the women? Flying pink protest drones!

    The great thing about freedom and open source communities is that there are so many ‘ports of entry’. Don’t like the community around Gnome? Try KDE. Or maybe just start a special interest group for your pet rock around that less welcoming project.

    Here’s a little google tech talk linked from the DIYDrones site about protecting open source projects from poisonous people.

    1. georgiaguthrie says:

      Thanks for the link to the pink drones, I hadn’t seen them. I agree in theory about Open Source Communities, but they have a special set of issues as well. I recommend taking a look at the article I linked to above, on Free Culture and the Gender Gap: http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4291/3381. I’ll check out that talk about poisonous people, looks good.

      1. jstults says:

        I read that article; it is awful. I avoided including my thoughts on it in my first comment because I was hoping this thread would have a high signal to noise ratio, but since you brought it up…

        Bruce Byfield (2009b), writing for Linux Magazine, noted that balanced responses to incidences of sexism — from either side — are rare, “But the real flood of emotion comes from the anti–feminists and the average men who would like to deny the importance of feminist issues in FOSS. Raise the subject of sexism, and you are met with illogic that I can only compare to that of the tobacco companies trying to deny the link between their products and cancer”.

        There should be an update to Godwin’s law to include the Merchants of Doubt meme. If you trot that one out then you’ve indicated you are no longer interested in rational discourse. You are interested in shutting down discourse by painting people who disagree with you as ‘deniers’. I am interested in making my hackerspace more appealing and welcoming to a more diverse population. I am not interested in pretending that kind of pseudo-intellectual drivel is going to help anyone do that (Linux Magazine as a source citing unnamed “anti-feminists” and “average men”, really?!).

        1. georgiaguthrie says:

          Shutting down the discourse certainly wasn’t my intent. I posted that article because I thought it was useful insight into the issue of low participation by women in the open source community (2% compared to 20% in for-profit STEM positions, though I think you must be aware of that). I also met the author of that article at a conference and found him to be a reasonable, thoughtful person.
          I’m glad you brought up the fact that you have issues with the article’s sources; it’s another perspective on the issue and offers us more to discuss. The source you cited was a personal blog post that didn’t pretend to be objective and scientific. Personally, I am ok with that because I find those kind of points of view on an issue valuable, but our whole project is about gathering anecdotal data that fills in more of the picture that current scientific research isn’t explaining thoroughly. However, I don’t think that anecdotal stories are necessarily sound data, or are going to lead to the “right” answer. In the case of our project such data just seems to be helping us talk about the issue of the gender gap in a constructive way.

          I don’t understand how my bringing up that article about the open source community makes you think I am discrediting your interest in making your makerspace attractive and welcoming to diverse audiences. This issue is something I care about, and the last thing I want to do is drive away other people who care about it too. Can you say more about why you didn’t like that article, or maybe what you’re doing in your makerspace to attract new people from different backgrounds?

          1. Julia says:

            >Can you say more about why you didn’t like that article, or maybe what you’re doing in your makerspace to attract new people from different backgrounds?
            (sorry, hard to fit another reply under this question)

            My be, I can explain… First, I question their gender gap numbers in open source. The article refers to FLOSS surveys of 2002 (11 years ago!) and 2006. The first one was posted to a few communities and then distributed from a person to person (already sounds kind of biased, as people tend to pass information to friends of the same gender and close age). In the second one the authors’ aim was to show that FLOSS excludes women (i.e. the goal already set!); it was performed by interviewing participants in Europe in pubs and restaurants, and also having an online survey – not explained how distributed. Doesn’t sound very reliable. Second, I don’t know how jstults gets diversity in their group, but diversity is… diversity. Opposite to segregation and special treatment. I myself came to dislike women only and women in tech spaces. I’d been happy to discover them at first, but couldn’t stand the culture for long. Anti-diversity never stops with just one thing like gender. Instead it goes further to become monocultural and close minded like a clique where everybody should “fit in”; if somebody doesn’t assume the same “pseudo-intellectual drivel”, they’re out. Women themselves are a very diverse group, we shouldn’t be talking about “women” as if 3.5 billion people, 50% of the population is the same young white middle class US born person with certain believes. I looked up the summit in Philadelphia and it was quite diverse. But when I look at the photos of the workshop in this article… not really. How come?

  3. ka1axy says:

    Where, indeed?
    I made sure my young daughter got as much tech as she wanted. I was overjoyed when, after she was off on her own, my wife found that she had been playing with an Erector set in the corner of the attic.
    It doesn’t make sense to discourage half the brainpower in your society by telling them they can only wash clothes and raise children.

    1. georgiaguthrie says:

      That’s awesome. I can say I first got interested in building stuff and technology at a young age with some encouragement from my parents. Our workshop has shown me how rare that still is for many girls though. I’m sure your daughter appreciates your encouragement, or will when she’s older.

  4. raster says:

    At Milwaukee Makerspace we’ve made previous attempts to get more women involved, but the biggest change for us came when we moved to a new location. The old location was a filthy old factory off the beaten path. (It wasn’t a dangerous side of town, just out of the way.) At our new location the number of women (and men!) involved has been growing quite a bit the last few months, and it’s great to see more diversity in the space, and people sharing their knowledge in all areas, from metal casting to sewing to electronics to wood working. We do our best to be excellent to each other.

    1. georgiaguthrie says:

      Cool, have you seen any classes or events that women are particularly interested in? I would love to come visit your space if I’m ever in the midwest.

      1. raster says:

        The ‘Craft Lab’ area is organized by a few women who are excited about the space and interested in many aspects beyond the typical crafting stuff. We’ve not done enough classes yet to have good stories yet, but the classed we have had were sewing classes which were taught by a female member and consisted almost entirely of men wanting to know how to sew. Some other female members are interested in wood working, laser cutting, welding, etc. We’d love to have you visit if you’re ever in the area. (We’re about 90 minutes north of Chicago.)

        1. Melanie Burrett says:

          I just attended a workshop at my local makerspace with my daughter. It was a soft circuit embroidery project, and we both learned a lot. There was a dad and daughter combo, and a a fairly even mix of men and women all learning something new… for some it was what a split-stitch looks like and how to thread a needle. For others (like me) it was the beginnings of learning about electronics. We’re hooked. (And most importantly, my daughter was so inspired she wanted to do every workshop they offer in the future- on any topic :)
          http://www.kwartzlab.ca/

  5. Andromeda says:

    I’m glad you’re making a facilitator’s kit! After the last code4lib (http://code4lib.org/) conference, some of us were talking about how it would be awesome to have this workshop as a preconference event. (note: code4lib is an anarchic collective of coders in libraries and librarians who do tech and so forth. also, I am not a conference organizer. But I did give a lightning talk about these issues at the last code4lib.)

    1. georgiaguthrie says:

      Thanks, yeah we’d love to present at code4lib. We made a connection with an organizer of that event at another conference recently, so hopefully we can make it happen :)

  6. A I says:

    I think companies, marketing, everything thrown at women like make up and vanity status should be less important than intelligence, but you don’t see any of that despite it being 2013…

  7. georgiaguthrie says:

    I totally agree, but unfortunately the emphasis on women and their looks is also deeply ingrained in our culture. I hesitate to open a can of worms, but I think an example of this are the Girl Scouts science and technology badges, which were recently redesigned. Though they don’t have a badge for fitness and makeup anymore, they still have one called the “Science of Style” that is included in the Science and Technology category, which I have issues with: http://www.girlscouts.org/program/basics/science/

  8. scaryreasoner says:

    You know I have the same question about my youtube channel — which tends to be just documentation of my projects, which are the typical sorts of things you’d find being done at a hackerspace — google analytics shows only 8% of viewers are women, with around 100 videos and 120k views total. That’s just weird. And the few other guys around my hackerspace with youtube channels seem to have similar viewer stats. My youtube stats are dominated by a few videos I have that were featured here on Make, or else on hack-a-day. So my viewer stats may just be a reflection of those who frequent this site and hack-a-day. Would be interesting to see the stats for blog.makezine.com.

    1. georgiaguthrie says:

      I think I missed what your question was… do you want more women viewers? I would be interested to see what would attract more women viewers myself. In my next post I was going to cover some of our experimentation with different descriptions and key words to attract more women. Would you consider partnering with a local woman crafter or artist on a project or video? That might be a good way to start if you’re going for more diverse viewers.

  9. Liz says:

    Thanks for the great article Georgia! I am a big fan of having discussions like the ones you describe and think they’re very powerful for helping people be able to understand their experiences aren’t isolated and they are part of general societal patterns — that helps us fight to change things!

    – Liz (Noisebridge)

    1. georgiaguthrie says:

      Thanks Liz! I stopped by Noisebridge in late February just to check it out. Maybe next time I get out there we could meet and talk some more about this issue.

  10. AC says:

    The women are apparently too busy complaining about there not being any women at makefests, to go to makefests.

    Stop whining. Go make something.

  11. BJ says:

    I’m always skeptical of the “invisible” or “systemic” characterizations of injustice or discrimination because they relieve accusers of the burden of proof – and anecdotal evidence only gets you so far. I think an understanding of the differences, both psychological and cultural, between men and women and a consideration of roles in our society that still persist would shed more light – and they aren’t all necessarily negative. Consider Pitt’s findings about the options for women is STEM careers: http://www.news.pitt.edu/women_STEM

  12. georgiaguthrie says:

    Thanks for posting that article. I agree that anecdotal evidence only gets you so far, but the summary of the study you link to may also have some issues. I can’t access a free copy of the study right now, but the summary says that women “seem to be more likely to choose careers outside of science because their combination of skills provides them with more career options.” To come to this conclusion they use “such factors as participants’ SAT scores, family needs, whether they liked working with people or things, their devotion to a career, and, ultimately, the occupations they chose by age 33.”
    However, they don’t factor in data such as how much encouragement in math the girls received in their early years, that would have helped them excel at math, and then make them predisposed to STEM careers based on this research. This is the kind of information that is surfaced in our workshop. This study also doesn’t mention if the subjects considered STEM careers or not. From the data we’ve gathered, many women are repelled by computer science and engineering departments and faculty in college, and that may be a reason for women with high verbal and math skills to choose a non-STEM career, just so they don’t have to deal with an unfriendly environment. I am not convinced from the summary that they have enough data to draw the conclusion that women gravitate toward non-STEM careers because they have more options.

    1. jstults says:

      The press release says you just have to request a copy of the study. I requested and received a copy this morning.

      I think you’ll find less to flatter your prejudices in this report than you found in your friend’s insightful article. You’ll also find more attention to study design and less reliance on magazine articles as references.

  13. Anca Mosoiu says:

    Thanks for this article. I can’t help but notice that the negative comments you posted from women are about other people, not the technology itself being too hard or intractable. Did you get any of those kinds of comments?

  14. saurabh hooda says:

    Even in India, Girls always fare better in secondary and senior secondary school results despite their homely chores. But then college onwards Girls lead starts to peter because of several social reasons. iWish Indian women can get better platforms.

  15. Ayx says:

    > I know that this just isn’t true.

    Oh, but I don’t doubt that it is.

    Women may play at doing the things that are currently popular, but extensive experience shows that women have no true interests outside of complaining about men.

    This is why I am a misogynist.

  16. Julia says:

    I don’t understand the purpose of this kind of exercise.

    I was raised in a country with better involvement of women into STEM, and went to college in another country with still better involvement. I couldn’t help but notice that in the US there is a strong and explicit message given to very young kids that technology is for boys only. As an experiment, check any toy store, it’s not only boys and girls sections, but toys MADE and advertised for different genders (I wonder why it’s not illegal). If a family goes with the flow, by the time a child makes choices, those memories and messages already become subliminal. You would probably need psychoanalysis to uncover those very early memories… And they don’t even have to be frustrating or pleasant.

  17. Lacoste Outlet says:

    Any guesses?

  18. Beogradski Haker says:

    Come to the Belgrade Hacklab, oosm.org, we have a near 50% ratio of women and men. This might have something to do with the fact that the hackerspace was founded by activists that were involeved in the feminist movements, and the space was designed from the get go to be a women and LGBT safe spot. Where no tolerance, and macho BS is well, not tolerated

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I am an artist, designer, and maker. As the Director of The Hacktory, I am working to create a beginner-friendly environment where anyone can explore their interests in technology and art. Last year I had the honor of being named Philly's "Hacker of the Year" by the blog Geekadelphia. I also work as a designer at the Action Mill, a company that designs tools to improve how people work, transform complex systems, and create more meaningful connections.

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