AdaCamp Montreal Reflections

These past few days I’ve been in Montreal at AdaCamp, an unconference dedicated increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. It’s been fabulous and it’s amazing to be surrounded by so many incredible women.

General conference thoughts: this is the second tech conference I’ve been to, the other was Google I/O. They were different in pretty much every way, from the number of attendees (by orders of magnitude) to the structure of the sessions. AdaCamp had only a generally time-blocked schedule, all of the sessions were proposed and scheduled on the first day by the participants.

There were tons of interesting sessions proposed and I wasn’t able to attend all of them, but below I’ll detail some of the highlights for me.

The Meta-Conference
Some of what the Ada Initiative does is help create codes of conduct and anti-harassment policies for conferences. One of the topics of discussion was how conferences can be better and more inclusive. AdaCamp, for its part, did its best to model good practices, such as color-coded lanyards for attendees to indicate their preferences for appearing in photographs (photographs OK, ask before photographing, don’t photograph). We talked about things that could be better. Some of the topics that came up were:

  • Alcohol at conferences. (Over)consumption is often normalized and there aren’t often great options for people who prefer not to consume.
  • Better ticket pricing, especially those with accessible options for students and self-funded attendees
  • Conference attire and what that means for people who don’t want to wear jeans and a t-shirt
  • Bathrooms — lines, accessibility, and gender binary assumptions
  • Dealing with people behaving badly at conferences
  • Child care and lack thereof

Further resources:
Code of Conduct 101 + FAQ (Ashe Dryden)
Code of Conduct Evaluations (Geek Feminism wiki)
HOWTO Design a Code of Conduct for Your Community (Ada Initiative)

Women in Tech
So this was kind of the whole thing, so there was not really a specific session on it. Some of the topics I heard talked about:

  • Women leaving the field and why
  • Bad behavior and toxic work environments
  • Burnout, why it happens, and how to deal with it
  • Additional expectations that are placed on women in the workplace, such as emotional labor
  • The imposter syndrome, what it is, how to recognize it, and addressing it

Further resources:
Women in Tech and Empathy Work (Lauren Bacon)
How Our Engineering Environments are Killing Diversity (Kate Heddleston)
Reasons You Were Not Promoted that Are Totally Unrelated to Gender (McSweeney’s)
Imposter Syndrome Training (Ada Initiative)
Avoiding Burnout, and Other Essentials of Open Source Self-Care (Kathleen Danielson)

Linguistics
This one is, I imagine, more personal for me. I studied linguistics back in the day (it was my emphasis within my cognitive science major) and Gretchen McCulloch led an excellent session on linguistics which made me miss college. I’d also like to spend more time discussing the framing of language we use to discuss women in tech (see: the ubiquity of the word “girl”).

Further resources:
Lexicon Valley Blog (Slate)
Text of Gretchen’s Lightning Talk (All Things Linguistic)

Other tidbits

  • The Twitter hashtag, for all the things I missed.
  • Jessamyn Smith’s excellently-named open source menstrual tracker, Egg Timer.
  • Crowdfunding campaign for a fallen laptop.
  • Katherine Presner’s resources for preparing to speak at conferences.
  • There was a designated quiet room for sitting, reading, checking emails, napping, etc.
  • I got myself a review copy of Sky Croeser’s book, Global Justice and the Politics of Information, so keep your eyes peeled for a review of that.
  • Every session seemed to contain at least one person who was knitting. I dig it.
  • I’m super jealous of the people who went to the robotics session.
  • Kendra Albert led a great discussion on “legal stuff” during which I learned a lot I didn’t know about licenses.

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