Celebrate Women in Open Source on Jan 28th

Less than two years ago, the San Francisco Ruby Meetup routinely drew just one or two women to an event of 50 people or more. Female attendance at regional conferences hovered at 3%, sadly reflecting the number of women participating in open source. Sarah Mei and I decided to do something practical — we decided to teach what we knew to women who wanted to learn.

Twelve workshops and six hundred students later, we’ve seen a transformation in our small community: meetups now routinely draw 15-20% women. And now our workshop recipes are starting to make a difference elsewhere.

In response to overwhelming demand — every workshop has a long wait list — an amazing number of volunteers have stepped up. Both women and men have answered the call to make a difference. Our volunteer base includes experienced developers, CTOs, aspiring developers and even non-developers willing to help with whatever just needs doing. We want to draw women into the industry and help those already in it sharpen their skills. Part of that is celebrating our volunteers who have made this effort possible.

So, men and women, ladies and gentlemen, please join us for dinner in celebrating the THIRTY women who over the past two years have volunteered their time organizing, teaching, TAing, and helping to make this change happen. We’re excited to hold this event in conjunction with She’s Geeky.

We’ve spent more effort on events than on keeping lists, so please let me know if I’ve missed anyone. Here are the women who have made this possible. Roughly in order of appearance:

  • Carmen Echauri
  • Jen-Mei Wu
  • Amy Lightholder
  • Ilen Zazueta-Hall
  • Melanie Archer
  • Liah Hansen
  • Rachel Heaton
  • Jennifer Lindner
  • Desi Mcadam
  • Liana Leahy
  • Mary O. Tolbert
  • Jana Boruta
  • Rachel Myers
  • Leah Culver
  • Ali Crockett
  • Sharon Ly
  • Anna Billstrom
  • Michelle Lupei
  • Amy Lee
  • Amy Chen
  • Karen Zeller
  • Barbara  Raitz
  • Joelle Gernez
  • Mary F. Jenn
  • Renee Chu
  • Angeline Tan
  • Megan Goering
  • Andrea Anqguist
  • Tracy Cogsdill
  • Patti Chan

Event Details:

OWL Summit
Bohemian Loft, 1543 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Tickets Available

Celebrate Women in Open Source on Jan 28th

2011 workshop kick-off

RailsBridge Open Workshop Project Announces Workshops for 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The RailsBridge Open Workshop project, which teaches web application development to both programmers and non-programmers, is announcing eight more of its popular free workshops for women in 2011.

The project, which has trained almost 600 people, nearly 500 of them women, in five cities in the past year and a half, is gaining speed in 2011.  RailsBridge has planned eight workshops so far, mostly in San Francisco, but branching out to the north bay, as well as Chicago and Seattle.

The target audience is anyone who has a laptop computer and is willing to devote a Friday evening and full day on Saturday to learning how to develop a web application using the popular Ruby on Rails framework. Most attendees are programmers who are looking to update their skills — some are unemployed, some are hoping to leave their current jobs and others just want to keep their skills sharp and understand the latest technology.

Although not exclusively for women, the San Francisco-based volunteers have focused their workshops on outreach to women in order to create gender diversity in the local tech community.  Some workshops have been focused on other outreach efforts, including a Boulder, CO workshop in conjunction with the Mountain.rb Conference which raised donations for local charities from participants who were all local web developers.

“Before we started the RailsBridge workshops, we worried about how we would effectively outreach to women,” said Sarah Mei, leader of the Open Workshop project. “However, we soon learned that demand is not a problem.”  The first workshop filled up with a waiting list in less than 24 hours. After a year and a half of training events and almost 500 women trained in developing web applications with Ruby on Rails, demand is just as high as it was in May 2009.

“The workshop project is a key part of the ecosystem that we are working to develop in open source, making it truly open to programmers and non-programmers of any background,” said Sarah Allen, president of RailsBridge, the umbrella organization supporting the workshops. The RailsBridge mission, according to Allen, is to bridge the gap from aspiring developer to contributing open source community member through mentoring, teaching and writing.

Sponsors of the workshops have included Heroku, Engine Yard, Pivotal Labs, Scribd, Orange Labs, Microsoft, IGN, Blazing Cloud, SlideShare, VodPod and Balsamiq. Workshops have been organized and promoted with the help of partner organizations DevChix and Women 2.0.

The project is actively seeking donations and sponsors. Individuals can contribute via PayPal at http://railsbridge.org. Those interested in sponsoring, hosting or organizing an event, can contact workshops@railsbridge.org. Follow @railsbridge on twitter.

Workshops Confirmed for 2011

The following workshops have confirmed venues and leaders.  Several additional workshops are also in the planning stages:

  • February 4-5, Twitter, San Francisco, led by Amy Chen (already full)
  • February 4-5, Hashrocket, Chicago, led by Desi McAdam (signup, volunteer)
  • March 11-12, Enphase Energy, Petaluma, led by Brenda Strech & Ilen Zazueta-Hall (sign up, volunteer)
  • April 7-8, ModCloth, San Francisco, Megan Guering
  • April, Seattle, Elise Worthy
  • May 6-7, Miso, San Francisco, led by Andrea Ängquist and Raphael Lee
  • July 15-16, Miso, San Francisco, Amy Lightholder, Rachel Myers
  • August 5-6, Quid, San Francisco, Andrea Angquist, Walter Yu

[update: workshops with sign ups have waitlists right now, if you want to attend one, please join our low traffic mailing list]


Testimonials from workshop sponsors and participants:

“As a sponsor of the RailsBridge Open Workshop project, Engine Yard is excited to see the success this dedicated group of volunteers has achieved this year –  training almost 600 new Rails developers, including 500 women. The Women in Rails program is a great way to get more women involved in the Rails community as well as increase the number of women developers in tech companies.”  – Marcy Campbell, VP Worldwide Sales of Engine Yard

“I can’t speak highly enough of the Ruby workshops that Sarah Allen and Sarah Mei run. I participated in one of their workshops as a sponsor and an assistant mentor. I was really impressed with their passion for teaching, their incredible programming talent and their compassion and understanding for the people that they teach. After my exposure to their workshop, I’ve emphatically and enthusiastically promoted their workshops to any woman I meet who expresses interest in learning to program. While most people are content to just talk about how to get women more involved with technology, Sarah Allen and Sarah Mei are actually actively involving women in technology, teaching them to program and getting them jobs.”  – Joel Franusic, Developer Evangelist at Microsoft

“As a supporter of the Ruby community and language, IGN enjoys hosting the RailsBridge Open Workshops because they not only lay the foundation for creating new Rails developers but also inspire non-coders into a love of software engineering.”  – Melissa Guyre, IGN

“Software development isn’t something anyone can learn in one workshop.  I attended three more after my first one, and only after building the same web app four times did I finally understand the difference between Ruby and Rails. However, the first workshop is where it all began.  I may not have walked out a programmer, but I walked out part of a community and with a clear path ahead – and best of all, a new and exciting goal.  I have since discovered that software development is fun and demanding enough that I made it my career, and the community I met at the workshops have helped carry me into the world of professional Ruby on Rails development.”  – Rachel Myers, Workshop participant

2011 workshop kick-off

October 2010 Workshop

On a drizzly October morning in SoMA San Francisco, I pulled up to one of the many renovated industrial buildings and was cheerfully greeted by Susan of Engine Yard. With Jill, a friend of mine/local preschool teacher in tow as chief kid-wrangler, we started about setting up the spacious, sunlit-filled floor that would host our technical outreach event.

The night before we had met with over 20 other enthusiastic volunteers to help a little over 30 women (and companions) set up their computers to learn the Ruby on Rails framework. Software developers, system administrators, UI designers, engineers, and other workshop faithfuls helped participants install and learn the fundamentals needed to use Rails for web application development. The participants came from all types of career backgrounds; at least one was an attorney, several were UI designers, IT staff members came, marketing professionals and others were there to learn. Myself and my co-organizer, Curtis, a regular supporter of these events, led a kick-off presentation that received with excitement and humor; then we were off into small groups for helping participants build their first basic application.

In a very healthy showing, we had enough volunteers teacher and assistants to instruct small groups of three- to four- participants with plenty of personalized support. By lunchtime were were all relieved to find delicious, ample box lunches from a local Mediterranean restaurant and provided by our generous hosts at Engine Yard. Shortly afterward kids that participants and volunteers had brought were well entertained; indeed the one baby was fast asleep in Jill’s adept arms.

By the end of the workshop, participants as well as volunteers were approaching Curtis and myself and thanking us for such a rewarding experience. I joined my family and headed out into the drizzle for good eats with a feeling of great satisfaction knowing how much the workshop was valued by all.

October 2010 Workshop