[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

Sam Ley sam.ley at gmail.com
Tue Jan 15 06:09:32 CET 2013

The issue with the knitting group sounds like it clearly had a gender
component. If you need a roadmap you should really be paying better

Regarding shared interests: Hackerspaces, almost by definition, have very
wide interest levels, and theoretically, new interests among active members
is taken as an opportunity to learn something new, not an "outside"
activity to be scorned. Knitting is a form of making that is very practical
and interesting, involves math and patterns, and is connected to a long
history of craftsmanship. If you didn't already know that the hobby is
mostly women, you'd assume that most hackerspace types would be interested
in learning how to do it, in the same way they happily take up
microcontrollers, bicycles, etc. Why would a group that tends to think of
an opportunity to learn a new making skill as a good thing all of a sudden
think it was a bad thing? I'm not accusing anyone of overt sexism, but
one's own brain has a tendency to trick you into making poor decisions
unless you force it to stop and think about the situation. I know I've been
unintentionally rude to people without thinking about it in the past, so I
try to think carefully in the future.

As far as gender balance, our space currently has 19 people (we tend to
cater to people with high space requirements so we don't tend to have a lot
of members at a time), and the demographics are currently:

19 members
9 women and 10 men
5 have children (2 men, 3 women)

Our income demographic has never been explicitly measured, but tends toward
the lower middle range - people who are transitioning into making income
from their creative works. We do have a few well-to-do engineers and
software people, but they are the exception.

If things are sounding pretty good so far, one thing we lack with regards
to our community is racial diversity, and while it is tempting to explain
that away as just "well so does Colorado as a whole", I think that a hope
would be that any space would accurately represent the people around it,
which is an elusive goal. You can't just go "round up" minorities and put
them in your space, but broad thinking about how spaces engage the world
around them should naturally equalize things over time.


On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 9:33 PM, Al Jigong Billings
<albill at openbuddha.com>wrote:

> ++
> On Jan 14, 2013, at 8:32 PM, Michel Gallant <sfxman at gmail.com> wrote:
> "Hi, I'm a man and here's why your complaint is not legitimate"
> On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 11:10 PM, Matt Joyce <matt at nycresistor.com> wrote:
>> I don't see a knitting groups lack of jive with a hackerspace
>> community as being a gender bias.
>> For instance, at Noisebridge a continued point of protest I've heard
>> before is the people who come in solely to use the kitchen.
>> If a sub group within the community is not really jiving with the
>> greater community it's really not necessarily a bias built upon
>> gender.  it sounds like ( from my reading ) that it was more of a lack
>> of shared interests.
>> And that can be problematic in either direction.  If I were to show up
>> with 3 of my good friends ( male or female ) at a knitting circle and
>> starting soldering arduinos into the scarves / sweaters / awesome
>> socks / I was knitting there's a good chance that over time I would
>> wear out my welcome with the rest of the knitting circle.
>> While I am all for identifying areas where people can be made to feel
>> more comfortable, I am also all for not trying to fit square blocks
>> into round holes.  If two communities don't share common interests,
>> they will likely not share space well.  Trying to change that seems a
>> futile effort to me.
>> And, while there are those that do transcend multiple groups, that
>> does not mean that those groups will be able to jive.
>> Curious why you thought it was related to the gender of the knitting
>> group members over the potential lack of shared interests?
>> On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 10:55 PM, Lisha Sterling <lishevita at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> >
>> > On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 9:27 PM, Nathaniel Bezanson <
>> myself at telcodata.us>
>> > wrote:
>> >>
>> >> 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.
>> >
>> >
>> > It sounds like you have a great space there!
>> >
>> > Last year at SpaceCamp, an unconference for hacker and maker spaces run
>> by
>> > School Factory, we had an informal poll of the founders and facilitators
>> > there to see what the gender makeup was. Despite the fact that there
>> were
>> > about 30% women at the conference, it turned out that the membership of
>> > hackerspaces tended to run closer to 90/10 with a few notable
>> exceptions. A
>> > couple of the women there spoke directly to the fact that they were
>> made to
>> > feel unwelcome at some hackerspaces even as the hackerspace *said* that
>> they
>> > were being gender-blind.
>> >
>> > An example that I can think of off the top of my head is how at one
>> mid-west
>> > hackerspace, a woman started a knitting group that brought in a lot of
>> other
>> > women. Some of those women became involved in other areas of the hacker
>> > space, but not all of them did. However, *some* of the men in the
>> > hackerspace continually berated and badmouthed the knitting group,
>> > complaining that it was taking up space that should have been used for
>> > "real" hacking like woodwork, metalwork, programming and electronics.
>> The
>> > knitting group wasn't forced to stop, but the discomfort from the way
>> that
>> > they were treated meant that fewer women wanted to come, not only to the
>> > knitting group, but to other functions as well. The knitting group
>> died, and
>> > the hackerspace was left with only a couple of female members (one of
>> which
>> > went on to become a facilitator at another hackerspace).
>> >
>> > I agree that the way to get future women into the hackerspaces is to get
>> > their parents in today. We all need role models. Are parents are our
>> first
>> > role models. The other adults in the spaces we frequent as a child
>> (school,
>> > scouts, daycare, hackerspace, etc) are very important as well.
>> >
>> > There is another issue that needs to be addressed, and that is making
>> sure
>> > that your hackerspace is an open and welcoming place to all: women,
>> gays,
>> > transgendered people, people of different faiths, or colors, or shapes,
>> or
>> > sizes...
>> >
>> > There is a lot of work going on in this area at a lot of hackerspaces
>> and
>> > that is really fantastic. Be aware, though, that you might not be aware
>> of
>> > the issues facing any minority in your space. Sometimes you can find
>> out by
>> > asking. Sometimes you can't. An of course, if you don't know that there
>> is a
>> > problem, it's pretty much impossible to fix it. But when someone does
>> speak
>> > up, hear them out and see what can be done.
>> >
>> > As for women not wanting to talk to the press about being a woman in a
>> > hackerspace, there may be several reasons for that. 1) It's really
>> awesome
>> > at your space and they don't see a point. In which case you should maybe
>> > encourage them to speak to the press and say exactly that, since it will
>> > help women who feel timid about joining *any* hackerspace more likely to
>> > show up. 2) They are sick of saying the same things over and over to the
>> > press, being misrepresented and painted as either a victim or a hero or
>> some
>> > other archetype rather than as a person who hangs out at a hackerspace.
>> 3)
>> > They really don't like anything that smacks of personal advertising.
>> "Get my
>> > name in the paper? Ick! No thank you!!" 4-infinity) I can't possibly
>> know
>> > all the other reasons...
>> >
>> > - Lisha
>> >
>> > --
>> > http://www.alwayssababa.com/
>> >
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > Discuss mailing list
>> > Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>> > http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
>> >
>> _______________________________________________
>> Discuss mailing list
>> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.hackerspaces.org/pipermail/discuss/attachments/20130114/9c362f38/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the Discuss mailing list