[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

charlie wallace charlie at finitemonkeys.com
Thu Jan 17 04:26:39 CET 2013

If it helps any our hackerspace was primarily electronics and the knitters
took over recently :)

On Jan 14, 2013 7:55 PM, "Lisha Sterling" <lishevita at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 9:27 PM, Nathaniel Bezanson <myself at telcodata.us>
>> 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/
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