[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

Matt Joyce matt at nycresistor.com
Mon Jan 14 22:38:51 CET 2013

OpenStack signed up with the Gnome outreach program for women this
year.  I thought that was a pretty awesome idea.  And I am glad they
did.  And while that is a great thing, and should be continued, I
don't see that as solving the issue at all.  It addresses a symptom.
It's not addressing the problem.

Many years ago at NYCR we discussed applying for a grant to promote
technological literacy amongst kids.  And after many hours arguing how
to do it, we settled on the shared belief that the correct way to get
kids the exposure they need to decide for themselves if STEM is right
for them, means bringing in the parents first and foremost.

I think that if you want to increase membership in the STEM community
at large, you need to target the parents.

That being said, NYCR has brought in many members from very diverse
fields regardless of their gender, and their selection process has
afforded them a greater degree of flexibility in balancing their
numbers to promote a more diverse membership.  They have been rewarded
for that.  And as a result so have many of the members who have been
exposed to new ideas as a result.  I think I have watched as many
techies turn torwards the arts as I have watched artists embrace
technology as a passion.  So I believe there is definitely value in
promoting the mixing of communities that share enough values to
coexist and benefit from that coexistence.

Again the idea there is not to get the next generation of young women
to sign up at your hackerspace.  The idea is simply to make sure that
someone who is important in their life gives them the exposure to
technology, arts, and everything else in the world that they need to
find their own way to happiness.

All that said, I have benefited greatly from the diversity of
resistor's membership.  And I would love to see that benefit in other
areas of my life, including my open source involvements in the purely
technology fields.

This post reflects my opinions alone.




On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 4:27 PM, Nathaniel Bezanson <myself at telcodata.us> wrote:
> This piqued my curiosity.
> Since this post a few days ago, I've counted the people in the space, each
> night. It's funny, because on paper our membership is about 80% male, but if
> you look at the people who actually show up and participate, it's a lot more
> even -- roughly 60/40 most of the time. Our president, secretary, and
> treasurer all happen to be women. We get our share of contact requests from
> outsiders asking to interview or otherwise get in touch with female members,
> and the majority of these are met with baffled indifference.
> Q: So, why do you write these strong female characters?
> A: Because you’re still asking me that question.
> -- Joss Whedon
> We don't accept minors as members, but there are several who drag their
> parents to the space on a regular basis, and one who's informally planning
> his 18th-birthday-midnight membership signup. Of the folks in the space most
> often, the majority are in our twenties and thirties, but there's a
> substantial 55-plus contingent, and our oldest member (and one of the most
> active) is 70.
> The thing about having children in the household is interesting, though, as
> that's one of our main member-drains -- new parents don't have time for
> hackerspaces! We've lost our last CEO and a handful of other
> formerly-very-active members, when the little ones arrived and their
> priorities changed. I can't imagine an outreach effort that would change
> that, nor should it!
> So if you don't mind my asking, Katie, and I say this in honest curiosity,
> what would such a mission look like?
> -Nate-
> Katie Bechtold wrote:
> "Over eight in ten (81%) are male with a median age of 44. Participants also
> report a high median household income of $106,000 and nearly three-quarters
> (73%) own their home or apartment. Most are married or living as married
> with nearly four in ten reporting children under the age of 17 living in the
> household."
> Wouldn't it be great to have a mission to bring some of the millions of
> people *outside* that demographic into this community?
> --
> Katie      http://about.me/katiebechtold
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