March 24, 2010
Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a wonderful idea that was started to help us celebrate our heroes in technology and science, and to identify female role models. I'm using the day instead to talk about how the women I know (or don't know yet) in the tech industry can pursue some interesting opportunities in the future.
Nearest and dearest to my heart is ThinkTank, the open source social network insights application that we're creating at Expert Labs. Besides being created by a woman, we've been able to start up an active, vibrant community that is supportive and inclusive of new members. I think that our habit of mentoring our newest contributors is part of why we were one of the youngest apps to be selected for Google Summer of Code students to participate in, and I think it also explains why we have a mailing list and community that's never had a single flame war, personal attack or ego battle. It also helps that we're doing meaningful work that helps government make better decisions every time we fix a bug in our application. Even if you've never considered yourself a coder, there are instructions on how to participate that make joining the project as easy as editing a file in Google docs.
Put simply, at Expert Labs we'd love for ThinkTank to be the most woman-friendly open source effort that exists.
Open For Submissions
As someone who's been on the Advisory Board for the Web 2.0 Expo NYC since its inception, I'm also eager to point out that the call for proposals is currently open, with just three weeks left in the window for submissions. Make a note to spend some time this weekend to write up a proposal — don't put it off and then kick yourself for not submitting! My contact info (phone number and email) is right on this page if you want to get in touch with any questions about how to make your proposal better. I'd be eager to have much better representation on stage this year, and O'Reilly has committed to this goal as well.
A side note: I've been highlighting on my Twitter account when events that I participate in make diversity a priority, as with O'Reilly's statement, Kevin Werbach's Supernova event, and others. Previously, my policy had been to simply decline participation in events that had speaker lists that weren't representative of our industry. Instead, I've decided this year to accept some of these opportunities to speak, but use some of my time on stage to (respectfully) mention the issue to the participants at the event. I'm still not sure whether boycotting or speaking up will be more effective, but clearly it's time to try some new strategies.
I've also been following the PHPWomen open source project partnerships, which provide another set of mentoring and guidance opportunities for projects that want to encourage women to participate in their work. It seems like a good model that more open source efforts should embrace.
Finally, J-Lab and the McCormick Foundation are sponsoring a New Media Women Entrepreneurs challenge, to offer $12,000 to a female entrepreneur who has a great idea for a media business. There's only three weeks left to apply to this challenge as well, and while I'm not involved in it and have no connection to the organizers, I'd be happy to volunteer my help to anyone who wants to submit a proposal as well.
Why It Matters
In all, there is a ton of opportunity for the brilliant and talented women in our tech industry to excel despite the pervasive and persistent obstacles in the way. I urge everyone to support these efforts, and am always happy to be a resource to point out that the reason I embrace diversity and opportunity for everyone in our industry is because it leads to the best, most innovative, and most successful new creations. Happy Ada Lovelace Day!