If we meet a woman engineer, its like finding a Unicorn.
Watching a video on women founders looking for technical co-founders, that line stood out. I am a woman engineer and a founder of an ed-tech company. I screamed at the video –
I am not a Unicorn. I do exist!!!!
But, the reality is women-in-tech are often invisible, unheard, and isolated.
Chiu-Ki Chan finally showed me a ray of light in changing that. I feel a little more like I exist. She and fellow Android engineer – Corey Latislaw – led a charge to get more women speakers at technical conferences. It is a great example of what works. They almost doubled the number of women speakers at Droidcon NYC in just 1 year.
Why more women speakers at conferences?
Margaret and I recently led two code-labs at GDG Seattle. GDG Seattle typically has 12% women attendees. The organizers are very supportive and have a code of conduct that they enforce – conditions that typically result in good amount of women attendees (Yes, 12% is considered good). But, for our code-labs, we had 37% women attendees – triple the typical.
Women speakers at conferences make more women feel welcome. Perhaps, next time, they may be inspired to speak too. Perhaps, gradually, more of well-known engineers and developers will be women. Perhaps, eventually, my daughters may grow up thinking women engineers and developers are nothing unusual.
First proposal for first Conference – first rejection or first acceptance
I had not planned on submitting a conference proposal. There was so many excuses not to. I have two kids. I don’t like traveling. It’ll be a lot of work. As it turns out, none of them is valid. Husband will happily manage the kids for three days. I may not like traveling, but, the camaraderie, learning and exposure makes it well worth it. As for work, it is just motivation for me to clean up my code and setup for the next phase of development of educational apps. Its work that had to get done. The conference talk provided motivation… which I needed.
Doing something for the first time seems infinitely challenging. What is one even supposed to propose? When I sat down and had to – more than 1 idea came quickly. Will I have to write the whole talk when I propose it? Turns out I just needed the abstract and a short bio. What should I put in the abstract? How long should it be? It should be small and eye catching. But, have some detail on how it is unique or interesting. These are all the things that Chiu-Ki and Margaret helped with.
Grassroots plus Support
The organizers had no idea why they were seeing more talk proposals from women. It was a grassroots effort. It was done by individual women reaching out, and helping each other. We chose Droidcon NYC because Intel sponsors women to attend it. That offsets some travel expenses. Wish more companies and more conferences offered support.
We would love to hear you speak
We often don’t realize how big an impact speaking at a conference may have. I did not. It can help our careers and our standing within our own company and the developer community. I strongly recommend women developers to speak at a conference at least once… perhaps start with a local developers event. Ask us about speaking at GDG Seattle.