A few months back I casually brought up the WordPress classes being offered by both Girl Develop IT (GDI) and Web Start Women (WSW) at an IT committee meeting for an organization I volunteer with. I was planning on a taking a class myself and figured that others might be interested too since our website was being built on the platform. Part of me hesitated to mention the classes, since half the committee was comprised of men, and my intuition, or more accurately my anticipation, that the exclusionary nature of WSW and GDI would generate a scoff from one of the men was realized. To be fair, he self-corrected, and, knowing this person, his dismissal was more of the “why do you need your own group?” variety rather than the “women don’t belong in tech” one. I’ve asked myself that question many times. Attending Philly’s first Women in Tech Summit this past weekend reminded me that just as you have to leave the city to appreciate space, space is exactly what these women-only events provide. Space to talk about the things that impact us in different ways than they do men in our careers, space to share stories of gender-specific barriers or sexist attitudes we’ve endured and how we overcame them, and space to honestly and candidly discuss why there is such a shortage of us in our chosen field. The conference delivered on all of the above and more, both in formal sessions, and informally in the hallways, at lunch, and at the concluding high tea.
The track I followed tended to be the workshop-geared one. Having just taken a MOOC (massive open online course) that introduced me to test-driven development (TDD), I was eager for some reinforcement of the concepts, and dropped in on Audrey Troutt’s session on TDD. Her ten-minute overview went deeper in presenting a broad overview of testing than I expected, and I was happy to learn a few new terms, especially exploratory testing, which just sounds fun. Her demo was in Java, a language I haven’t touched since college, but it was very clear and easy to follow. I also enjoyed Cat Farman’s presentation on Responsive Web Design… not only because it validated some of my concerns about having splintered approaches to dealing with our multi-device world, but also because it was funny. She did a very nice job of incorporating humor into her slides when showing the downfalls of having a mobile-separate strategy.
Additional highlights included hearing and meeting someone I’ve been following on G+ for a while, Lynette Young, and hearing from the very accomplished women on the panels on being second in command and giving back, all of whom spoke with refreshing candor. The tone of the conference was more tough love than it was fluff. Being in an industry that’s highly sensitive to hyperbole, saturated with snark, and constantly spinning on its heels after chasing every change in the wind’s direction, spending a day with realism was a welcome breath of fresh air.
My deep appreciation goes out to all the organizers who pulled this off – Tracey Welson-Rossman, Gloria Bell, Kimberly Gress, Amy Larrimore, Yasmine Mustafa and Pam Selle, and to the speakers and attendees who made this event what it was. I hope this is the first of many more.
Recap written by Girl Geek Dinners Philadelphia Member, Sondra Willhite
Sondra is a developer between gigs who has been attending every GGD, GDI and WSW class and workshop she can as she explores her career path. She has a particular interest in switching to a LAMP environment, and would not consider it rude if you contacted her about any developer openings in the CC area. You can find her on Twitter: @sondrawi.