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The only ____ in the room

·22 mins

Update: Just so it doesn’t get lost, there is also this post on g.d.o:

During introductions at last night’s New York City Drupal User Group (NYCDUG) meetup, each person said a variation of “Hi my name is _____. My drupal.org name is ______. I’m a __________ at _________.” Some included how long they’d been working with drupal, usually because it had only been a few months. It’s a nice thing to share because it reminds the rest of us to make sure we’re not leaving anyone out when we casually mention advanced concepts. I think the community is pretty good at embracing the tentative and uncertain beginners and making them feel included.

When it was my turn, I followed the pattern with one small deviation: “Hi, I’m Nikki Stevens. My drupal.org name is drnikki. I’m a senior developer at LBi, an ad agency in Flatiron. And I’m the only girl in the room.”

There was silence as people scanned the room to see if it was true. Then the men began to clap. My first reaction (because I’m me) was that they were applauding as if to say “Oh, congratulations! Look who’s got a girl!” (Note from 2022: Jokes on all of us - I was only pretending to be a woman.) Luckily, that’s not the case, though it still makes me laugh to think about it. Just the opposite - a few people came up to me wishing there were more women and asking how they could help.

I believe most of the men in that room would like to see more women at NYCDUG meetups. If I’m wrong about that, please don’t correct me.

While this is obviously part of larger societal issues regarding the underrepresentation of women in tech, treatment of girls in STEM classes, and the myriad of workplace injustices, I just want to talk about adults in the New York City Drupal User Group.

When there are 2144 members of the New York Drupal community, why was I the only woman in the room?* If we assume that the community mirrors the national average**, 25% of technology jobs are held by women. That would mean that there are 536 women in the group.

There were 45 people there last night
44/1608 or 2.73% of men attended the meetup
1/536 or 0.18% of women attended the meetup

Now, this issue isn’t just about women*** although that was the catalyst. The issue is about what seems to be a trend of homogeneity at NYCDUG meetings. This is bad. Diversity is good.

  1. Improve the integrity of source data
    While I stand by my fuzzy math above, it’s still pretty fuzzy.  We need solid data so that we’re not just guessing about attendance and membership ratios.  This includes:

    • Generating a report of member demographics.  Let’s start with the demographics available and add if necessary.
    • Developing a method to track who attends vs who signs up.
    • The developer in me would love to over-engineer this with some sort of  d.o %2B latitude / Foursquare, but we could just have a Google doc that people add their usernames to as they introduce themselves.
    • This could also help us to target people who repeatedly sign up and don’t attend, so we can gain insight as to the reason(s) why.
  2. Ask people why they don’t come
    Existing members are self-selected, so we know they’re already interested in Drupal.  How do we get them to participate?  Let’s ask. Again, we can start by distributing a survey to the community asking them to self-identify and rank their participation. Topics might include:

    • Why aren’t they attending?
    • Would a non-male DUG make them feel more included?
    • Do they feel under-represented in DUG leadership?
    • Is it simply a timing issue? (Which I don’t buy)
    • Do women just not like meeting and talking about cool stuff? (Not this either)
  3. Brainstorm ways to get the under-represented people to attend  
    After the data is collected, we should meet and discuss ways to increase participation. I’m happy to pick a time and place to gather and encourage people to come up with actionable ideas to make the group more diverse.

I fully support all efforts aimed at increasing the NYCDUG membership both in numbers and diversity. But for now, let’s focus on cultivating and encouraging the community we already have. As far as I know, this is the only local initiative to promote diverse participation. If you want to get involved, hit me up on twitter (@drnikki), IRC (drnikki) or email me nikki@drnikki.org

* As of June 7, there are 2074 members of the NYC drupal group. Additionally, there are 263 members on Meetup.com. I’d estimate that there is a significant overlap between the two groups, but probably not 100%. Let’s be conservative and say that there’s a 70% overlap - that’s an additional 77 users from Meetup.com. So combining the two groups, there’s 2144 people who could potentially attend an event.

** I use the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s numbers. I’m not sure if they’re including project managers, and any number of other titles that would be included in the Drupal ecosphere.

*** This is absolutely not related to any conversations about gender identity/identification and the way it’s represented on drupal.org. Not at all. In. No. Way. I realize that there are more options than just male and female. The ultimate goal is to increase the attendance of everyone who is underrepresented, including all gender variants.

**** mad credit to jhodgon and ashedryden for brainstorming this with me in the drupalchix IRC room.

Note - In a previously hosted version of this blog, there were comments. I’ve captured them below.

DRUPALCHIX ROCK #

decibelplaces replied on Wed, 06/13/2012 - 12:35 PERMALINK

I was in a focus group once where I was the ONLY Drupaler, and the ONLY FOSS dev; and come to think of it there was ONLY one "girl"

Anyway, I was surprised at this, I think that the Drupal community is more heterogeneous than most IT groups. I tweeted several drupalchix about this post, and you followed up with http://groups.drupal.org/node/237188

I have also been disappointed that nobody from my "team" (male or female) on my last 5 consulting projects over the past year has made it to any of the Drupal meetups (except for Oxygen Marvin who came to a Happy Hour).

I have been guilty of not coming myself, often busy with work, or other things, but the Drupal meetups are on my radar. Maybe you can blame my absence for this drop in female attendance :P

Or maybe Forrest should let his hair grow longer :D

I will make an effort to come again, and bring more people; the more the merrier ‡¡‡

OK, I’LL RESPOND #

roseba replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 17:11 PERMALINK

There are two tracks to the NYC Drupal meetup.

-I'm absolutely new to Drupal and I want to know more

-I'm a rock star Developer and I understand command line, hardware configs, and I'm ready to roll with something new (or share Drupal as I know it)

There isn't much going on in between. You are just expected to go from newbie to rock-star in a few months. If you don't... well what's wrong with you?

It's fun to hang at the Bof and I've heard some very stimulating scenarios there. Much of what goes on there, I can't take away and directly apply to what I do on a daily basis. That isn't always the best use of limited time.

I am not a site builder. I maintain, tweak and enhance an already built site which is large and complex. It's hard to relate to people creating new Drupal sites EVERY DAY. I simply don't get that kind of exposure to it that they do, so the learning curve gets steeper just from lack of time spent doing it. I also don't want to spend every waking hour of my finite personal time doing this on my own.

I've done some learning on my own, but getting past some of the road blocks where I have spent hours, even a full day trying to do some simple thing and someone says, "well look at the documentation". Or "google is your friend". Does one think I haven't done that?

And fwiw, when I hear, go to the documentation... and I read the documentation, my first thought is, IS THIS IN ENGLISH? Shouldn't it be understandable to anyone with a minimum amount of tech knowledge?

So it comes to time.

I work full time. My job is quite demanding. I work in Drupal all day, but it isn't building sites, but maintaining, break fixing and enhancing what we already have. The job is quite complex, and diversified (not just Drupal but other facets of the web too.) In fact, if I had to tell someone what I do all day... I would say, I have no idea. But I'm very busy doing it every day and have very little down town to "practice" Drupal.

When I get out of work, I'm a single mother with a young kid, a rich personal life. I learned from experience in another field that all work and no play makes Jill a dull and unhappy girl. So with only one night free a week, going to a Drupal meetup, given what the other women have described (all true) is not always the top of my list. I won't say never. I do enjoy the meetups. But there are a lot of other things pulling on my limited free time.

My first few Drupal meetups that I attended were very difficult. I felt intimidated. I feel that way every time I go into one, not just because of gender, but because of skill set.

Every single female that has contributed to this thread thus far had said something that I would agree with.

WANTED TO ADD SOMETHING #

roseba replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 19:20

I know that there is some fighting about the two conferences happening this summer. That is a fight that I don't wish to involve myself in.

However, I would like to voice something about the whole zest for Unconferences.

I attended my first unconference at Poly just a little a year ago. I was very new to the community and extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend. I don't think I had attended any of the meetups yet.

Of course there were many proposals of what subjects could present themselves at the Unconference. Many of what I thought could be there, didn't actually come to fruition because the plan was to decide based on those people actually in attendance.

As a newbie, I wasn't even sure WHAT to ask for in terms of what I needed, and of course there needed to be someone in the community in attendance available to do it as well. (Just how does someone prepare for something if they don't know they are going to be a presenter, and as a presenter I certainly wouldn't want to waste my time preparing something "just in case" either. I don't think this is a formula for a good presentation and it robs the audience in attendance of an opportunity to learn something that they could have learned had the presenter had some time to pull something concrete together.)

Anyway, the agenda was chosen for the day and from my point of view, there were some time slots where there really was NOTHING of applicable value for me. Interesting to some degree. Over my head in many cases. There were only a few presentations that I could readily relate to through the entire day, and two of them were during the same time slot which means I could only attend one. Some of the other time slots I was tossing a coin in my head as to which would be the least technical so I could get some value from it.

So after allocating 6-7 hours away from my family time to do this (and missing my daughter's ballet recital), I stuck it out with a good faith effort to learn whatever I can in spite of the impossible situation. In the future, I don't want to ever attend another UnConference. My free time on weekends in particular is far to valuable to me to attend something that free wheeling, and if it is, it's for personal fulfillment or simply fun.

WE DO SHOW UP! #

lisa rex replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 11:18

While I'm not a 'regular' at any of the NYC events, I've attended the meetup often enough and have done lightning talks at many of them. I prefer the Drupal happy hour event even more. Sometimes there's very few women, sometimes there a bunch (maybe 10%!). The reason I wasn't there at the last meetup is I was out of town.

I have proof we show up. :) This was taken on May 3rd. It wasn't even every woman at the meetup either:

http://instagr.am/p/KJQSOKnVEE/

For me personally, most of the talks at the meetup are very dev-centric and I'm not a dev, so I do what I would do at any event: I go hang with RobbietheGeek and the newbies. I take the time to ask them about their Drupal experience so far, sometimes I do usability studies, etc. Is it good use of my time? Sometimes.

I am curious why there aren't more women there too. Truthfully, I'm guessing a lot of just a lot going on in our lives and the Drupal meetup isn't high priority.

WHEN I FIRST MOVED TO NYC, I #

nikkiana replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 13:15

When I first moved to NYC, I was a lot more regular about attending both the regular meetup and the happy hour. My main motivation was for social reasons. When I first moved here, everyone I knew in the city was somehow involved with Drupal. It was a good space for me to make friends, plus it was easy to be motivated to go when I was surrounded by coworkers who were also going.

I never much cared for the regular meetup, to be honest. I have the attention span of a gnat on crack, so sitting and listening to a lecture irregardless of whether or not the talk was going to be of interest to me (and generally the answer to that was no) is not my idea of a fun and relaxing evening. I'm also not a very patient teacher so sitting and helping the newbies isn't exactly my cup of tea either. I was pretty much going because I felt some sense of community obligation to be there... in part driven by the fact that I'm female and the ladies ought to represent... and the fact that there was the opportunity to go out for beers with friends afterwards. I stopped going when I started re-evaluating how I spent my time and cut out things that I didn't enjoy doing. Pretty much the only thing that can lure me out to a regular meetup is someone from out of town messaging me and asking me to come with them, and even then I'm probably going to tell them that I'll meet up for beers afterwards. Life's too short to be bored.

I've always enjoyed the Happy Hour meetups more because I'm a social person. I attend it far less than I used to, though. I only come every couple of months. There are a couple reasons for this... One, financial. I made some choices to pursue artistic endeavors over the past year which has meant working less and money has been much tighter. I've largely stopped going out to eat and drinking at bars. Two, I'm making an effort not to drink to excess and Happy Hour was one of the events in my life where I was more likely to backslide into doing that.

If I were to sum all of it up... I'd say this... I don't go out to the Drupal events much anymore because Drupal is less of a priority in my life than it once was.

HEY THERE! #

Sean Robertson replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 13:55

Long time no see, stranger. ;-)

I haven't been to the meetups yet myself because I've generally been busy with other stuff, but I am planning to attend the happy hour on the 27th.

MY NAME IS LIZA #

LizaK replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 15:06 PERMALINK

My name is Liza, I've been a member of the Drupal community for more than six years, I've done a lot of work on growing the business of Drupal, spoken at many DrupalCons, and for many years, I used to run Lullabot. (http://drupal.org/user/59115)

I do not attend the NYC Drupal events. The first one I went to, with Webchick, we took the train up from Providence where we were giving a workshop, walked into the event, and the guy presenting was talking about porn. We walked out. Trip wasted.

Years later, once I moved here to NYC, I went to a Drupal happy hour with some guys who worked for me and were regulars. I was making idle chit chat, and I asked the guy next to me what he did. He literally looked me up and down, said, "Drupal, honey." and turned away. A few minutes later, when he realized who I was, he came running back over and wanted to tell me about his ideas "so I could take them back to someone at Lullabot". (I was managing partner at the time.)

And then a few years ago, Jen Simmons and I tried to organize a DrupalChix NYC event and we had to get the intervention of the DA to get the event posted on the NYC Drupal group page. (The guys running it didn't want to be "divisive.") There were threats involved, and we kept the location of the event secret because we were genuinely scared of them interrupting it.

Friends - this is ridiculous. And the sexism that *I* have felt in Drupal - specifically here in NYC - is part of the reason that I decided to go follow my happy trails somewhere else. I have no interest in being a trailblazer... in 2012. I would NOT encourage my daughter to go into Open Source (and she grew up going to DrupalCons).

I am a working, single mother; an entrepreneur with a rich personal life and people that I mentor - my time and contributions are valued by people. That time, I decided, was best spent outside of Drupal. (Plus, I wanted to go back to working in fashion... not a lot of room for that there. ;-) I love a lot of the people in Drupal, I miss my friends, and I think that the community is mostly good. But for whatever reason, the Drupal community here in NYC does not seem to be able to shake this shit.

I was having dinner last night with a close friend who is very successful in technology and has done work in Drupal. She said that she feels like this problem is getting worse in tech in general - that it is palpably worse than it was 20 years ago. And she has never seen it worse than in Drupal. This makes my heart ache.

These were my experiences. These were my choices. No one else will have the same experiences, and I am not recommending that anyone else make the same choices. But, maybe it will help the dialogue. More power to anyone that has the energy to try to tackle this endemic problem.

Anyone that wants to reach me can find me at lizakindred (at) gmail (dot) com. Cross posting to http://groups.drupal.org/node/237188.

MY TWO CENTS #

amycham replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 16:04

I go to events when I can. However, I haven't actually built a Drupal site in about a year and a half--I've been in marketing--so I'm never quite sure what to do with myself at meetups. (You think it's lonely being a woman at our meetups, try being in marketing. :D )

Unlike LizaK, though, I've never felt uncomfortable there, aside from awkwardness from not being up on my Drupal geekery. In fact, I've personally had more problems with unwanted/inappropriate attention and attitudes at social media and general business events than I have in Drupal.

As with Lisa Rex, happy hours are way easier for me to go to, since the conversation is more casual and it's easier to participate even if you aren't heavy into the tech.

However, I've been hanging around the NYC community to some degree for almost five years...I've slowly made friends and now have people I can chit chat with and feel comfortable asking "dumb" questions when needed. To walk into this community by yourself, particularly as a female and/or less-technical professional would, I think, be intimidating. Let's face it, the NYC community has a reputation; there are a lot of good, welcoming people, but we have our issues, too.

I would also note that there are a lot of groups targeted specifically toward women in tech, and many of us feel compelled to be there--whether because we want to not feel like a small minority, or we are actively working to support and attract other women to the field, or we just know other people at the events. There are only so many events we can fit into our schedules, which means going to one event may mean skipping another. If I have one night a week I can go to something, do I go to DUG, Webgrrls, Girls in Tech, Women in Communications,a photo meetup, a social media meetup, or...?

I don't know what the solution is, though there are pieces we can work with. Data integrity is fairly easy...if each meetup has someone committed to noting who attends, that can readily be compared to signups on GDO. Also, I'll be contacting organizers of other meetups/groups in my camp promotions, in hopes of drawing some registrations from other related tech groups and, yes, a couple female-oriented tech groups.

A similar tactic could be used in collecting survey data. A couple press releases, a bribe (eg, enter drawing for a gift card), some direct marketing and a little patience should be able to generate a useful data pool. (I did a bunch of this in b-school and would be happy to help.)

It's a sticky problem a lot of people are trying to figure out. As someone who was at one time the only girl in certain Java and game development classes, the only female developer in a company, and more recently the only marketing person in the room, I can attest that getting past the "only-ness" requires having a clear, compelling reason for being there. It's way easier to go someplace where you blend in.

(I think that got kind of ramble-y, but hopefully it makes sense.)

I’m amycham everywhere, including D.O., Gmail and Twitter.

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR THOUGHTS, PLEASE KEEP ‘EM COMING! #

nikki replied on Thu, 06/14/2012 - 18:10

Also, If you're concerned about posting publicly or backlash from responding, you can email them to nycdiversity@drnikki.org. I'm working on taking next steps with the survey, but I think this is such a GREAT start. Thank you thank you thank you!

DRUPALCHIX AND MEETUPS #

techgirlgeek replied on Mon, 06/18/2012 - 15:53

Hi -

My name is Karyn or, as I'm known in the Drupal Community, techgirlgeek. I feel very lucky that I live in the Denver/Boulder area, and feel very welcome, and accepted in the Drupal Community, especially in our local community. Since last summer I've been trying to get a DrupalChix centered meetup going in our community, alternating between Boulder and Denver each month. I've also, TG, never been the subject of such nastiness as LizaK had to endure. People never cease to amaze me.

I have to say I have received a ton of encouragement from our local community, both men and women alike, to do these meetups. I have even had some prominent members respond in defense of the DrupalChix meetups to some not-so-kind posts against them continuing. I'm working hard to continue and grow these meetups, however, the attendance numbers are not increasing, quite the contrary. I have some regular attendees, and we've even switched the focus from presentations (since I was running out of steam presenting every month) to adopting the Drupal Ladder, but overall they are not growing in attendance.

One thing that I did find was that even the perception of some of the women attending the meetups was that it was a beginners meetup and that "very technical" discussions wouldn't/couldn't happen there. I gave at least one drush talk, and not just how to download new modules. These statements were from other women, and not necessarily high level devs either. One gal is very new to drupal, and admits that she "can't theme, and can't write code". So, if women themselves refuse to see women as being technical, I'm not sure how we are supposed to convince the rest of the community.

So, as Lisa Rex said, I think the women in our community are just so busy, meetups are not the priority. I will say that at some of our "general meetups" I have seen and heard that we are starting to see more women in attendance, going from about 3% to 10% of the attendance totals.

Oh, Liza #

Emma replied on Mon, 06/18/2012 - 16:20

Oh Liza - your post broke my heart.

I found the hack jam at DrupalCON Denver was a humiliating experience (trying to participate in groups of men who would not be engaged to include myself or another woman in the coding portion . We were assigned theme work ( I am a senior developer and suck at design , but that's all I was offered) . We both ended up leaving early to attend the sponsor fair).

I would love to go to meetups, but I have a family and I just can't make it downtown (meetups in our town tend to be in pubs in the evening).

I wonder how many women can be isolated in this way? I would love to do a Google hangout with drupalchix or something online that really connects us all without needing to physically be somewhere. I know in-person is ideal, but just my two cents. I think sometimes the moms go missing :) I tried to write about it here: http://tiptoes.ca/?p=231

REMOTE MEETUPS #

strangers replied on Tue, 06/19/2012 - 18:01

I do try and have remote opportunities for my meetups, and Google Hangout is fun, but maxes out at 10 people.