OSCON 2010 & Women in Tech

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Jul 28, 2010 GMT
Rikki Kite

This year's Community Leadership Summit seemed to have a lower turn-out and energy level, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a great event. I'm sure other attendees will tell you that they got a lot out of the unconference sessions at CLS, and last year I said the same thing. This year, however, I focused more on the hallway track because CLS is a nice calm before the storm of OSCON. I got to see some familiar faces, such as Google's Cat Allman and Ellen Ko, Prentice Hall's Debra Williams Cauley, and Open Source Bridge's Selena Deckelmann, and I'm fortunate to have made some new friends, such as Jennifer Redman, Sherri Montgomery, and Christie Koehler.

At OSCON I saw more familiar faces, including Allison Randal, Maureen Jennings, Maria Webster, Leslie Hawthorn, and Esther Schindler. And I spent lots and lots of quality time with Amber Graner (we shared a room and she also volunteered at our booth). I enjoyed a birthday song, which Tiffany von Emmel helped sing and captured on camera. I joined in on a luncheon that Suz Axtell helped organize, which allowed me to meet a few more women in our field.

Of course this list of women from CLS and OSCON isn't nearly complete, and I also enjoyed seeing many old friends and making new ones of the male persuasion. But there's just something about getting to network with other women in our field. No, we didn't sit around and discuss being a woman in IT. We talked about our personal lives and our careers. We had breakfast, and we enjoyed happy hour. We talked about how we can work together, and how we can help other women who might be struggling to get into or stay in our field. We talked about brewing beer, vacations, and aging (ok, I talked about that one a few times). Oh... I almost forgot, we also worked.

During dinner one night, a couple of women encouraged me to propose a project I'm interested in doing with another company (as part of what I do here, not in place of it), and I discussed a mentorship idea I have with another woman.

And I'm sorry to say that I lost rock-papers-scissors AND an arm wrestling match with Rackspace recruiter Danielle Kieschnick (rematch in 2011!).

And I thanked some of the O'Reilly organizers in person for their extra efforts to encourage and include women.

Today I read Nicole Sullivan's recent Stubbornella blog post, Women in Technology. Nicole says that the O'Reilly folks also did a great job of attracting women speakers and attendees to Velocity. She says, "For a deep-geek conference, I was very impressed. Actively seeking female speakers does not mean accepting lower caliber. It means accepting that women might not submit proposals, but they might agree to speak if you ask them nicely. They might not be *famous*, but they may well be amazing innovators, skilled at what they do."

Nicole also does an excellent job of explaining why it's helpful that companies such as Google and O'Reilly make these extra efforts. She says, "Scholarships like the one Google proposes aren’t meant to give women of lower merit something they don’t deserve, they are meant to circumvent the discrimination that extremely talented women still face."

And Nicole also eloquently explains why I am particularly happy to see women I know and meet new women at events. She says, "It is tiring to feel weird and stand out all the time." Well said. I hope I get to meet Nicole some day, too.

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