Atlanta Code Camp 2016 - Where are the Women in Technology?

In the spirit of a Scrum Retrospective, I wanted to reflect on the completion of a recent community event in which I am involved. The 11th Annual Atlanta Code Camp was held recently (Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016) at Kennesaw State University. This is my fourth year of being involved with this event and it seems to get better every year.

What Went Well

By most accounts the weekend was a big success. We had more than 400 registrants, more than 350 attendees, and 45 sessions by 34 speakers. The session content ranged from cloud to mobile, spanned technology stacks, and even addressed career development topics. We had speakers from neighboring states, different regions of the United States, and speakers who travelled from Europe. This is not an accident. The variety of content is important to the planning committee. This is a community event, organized by local community members who genuinely care about the local Atlanta technology community and the community at large. I am proud to be associated with the event and with the other members of the planning committee.

QUESTION: How many women submitted sessions to Atlanta Code Camp 2016?
Answer: One.

What Can Be Improved

You read that right, just one! The diversity of technical and professional development content at the conference was great. However, the success of the day was dampened for me by the lack of one significant component of the community. Sadly, out of all of the sessions submitted, there was only one session submitted by a woman.

This fact is particularly disheartening when you consider that historically speaking, women have played a fundamental role in shaping the technology we use today. A recent article in Forbes reminds us that women have always been involved in technology. In fact, women are responsible for some of the most critical breakthroughs in technology. Check out Grace Hopper sometime to drive that point home! I find it sad that in 2016 we continue to be an industry in which women are under-represented, under-paid, and under-estimated.

The planning committee holds a speaker dinner the Friday evening before the event. I brought this topic up with the speakers who attended the dinner. There was disagreement that the number of sessions submitted was representative of all technology events, but there was a consensus that there is definitely a lack of session submissions by women overall to technology events and conferences.

I asked why they thought this is the case. There were the typical reasons - imposter syndrome, time, family, job commitments, and more. But what I found most interesting is that these are not specific to women. Everyone has these challenges with presenting. I think the lack of session submissions from women represents something much more deeply rooted and wrong with our industry.

I have spoken to a few women about why there may be a low rate of speaker submissions to local conferences. The most frequent responses include thinking their opinion doesn't matter or they don't have anything new or interesting to contribute. Yes, there are notable women like Meg Whitman, Jess Lee, April Underwood, Julia White, Beth Massi, Julie Lerman, Cathy Dew and many, many more. My point is not that there are no women in technology, but that everyone - regardless of gender - has a story to tell that can benefit someone else! In the case of Atlanta Code Camp specifically, and software development in general, your experience, your path, your story can help someone else solve a problem, move forward in their career, or just simply learn something new. Speaking at a local community conference or event is an opportunity to share your experience, maybe teach someone something, or even better, inspire someone. Of course, the issue of women in technology is much broader and more systemic than I can cover here, and one I am under-qualified to comment on in depth. Nonetheless, I want to try to do something to address the issue if I can. Increasing the number of speakers at a small number of community events may not solve the problem, but it can't hurt!

A Call to Action

The under representation of women in technology has been something that has been on my mind for quite some time. In my day job I am responsible for the hiring of our consultants and developers. As a member of the planning committee for local technology events I participate in speaker and session selection. In my role as hiring manager, I am disappointed with the number of applicants who are women. As one of the planning committee members, it was very disappointing to me to see the lack of session submissions from women. As a member of the technology industry, I find it particularly disturbing that women are so under-represented in technology overall. Again, in my opinion, there is a much broader sociological issue here and I'd like to do what I can to help.

I am committed to increase the presence of Women In Technology in the workplace and at any community event I am involved in. If you are a leader in the #WIT community - Atlanta or any other location, let me know how I can better do my part to ensure women in technology are recognized for their capabilities, contributions, and accomplishments. If you are a woman in technology in the Atlanta area, or beyond, check out the Community page and submit a session to a local conference, or find a MeetUp, User Group or community and tell your story!

HTH - let me know if you have an opinion or suggestion on how we can make a change.

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My name is Pete Skelly. I write this blog. I am the Director of Technology and Principal Consultant at ThreeWill, LLC in Alpharetta, GA.

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