[hackerspaces] Women in Makerspaces

David Powell davepow16 at gmail.com
Thu Jan 17 17:26:10 CET 2013

At Baltimore Hackerspace we have been 100% male until last month. We had
the occasional Female come through the door but for whatever reason they
never come back. We now have exactly 1 female member and about 20 male
members. The males ALWAYS go out of their way to make the place more female
friendly. For example we try hard not to use inappropriate language around
females. Whenever they show a desire to learn something we stop what we are
doing and teach them whatever it is they want to know. At the end of the
night when they are leaving we always have someone walk them to their car
so they feel safe.

I highly encourage all members of our space no matter what their gender is
to make it their own. For example we have Programmers, Electronic
Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Accountants, Students, etc. and you can
pick anyone person from any of those backgrounds and they could tell you a
subject that they just don't care about. So if a programmer wants more
programmers to talk to and hang out with I encourage them to send out a few
e-mails and become more active online in order to help find more people
interested in programming. I don't however expect the mechanical engineers
to go find programmers if they have no interest in learning to program.

I would say the same should be true with the female/male issue. If a
hackerspace has one female and she wants more females in the hackerspace
then she should start a campaign to find more females. It could be that she
host a class about e-textiles or whatever it is females like to talk about.

If a female in the hackerspace wants to be on our board I would gladly
accept them but I would hold them to the same standards as I hold everyone.
As a board member you are "Responsible" for the future of the hackerspace.
This means a lot of work that really sucks. For us it is not just making
decisions but actually getting the work done. For example we need brochures
made to hand out to people who are coming through our door for the first
time and at special events. Ok we voted that we need those. Now what? Well,
someone has to actually design and make the things. But we don't have a
budget to just pay a designer. So the person in charge of making it happen
has to find someone with the talent to make it happen or figure out how to
do it themselves. "But I just want to hack" is usually what most people
say. Nobody wants to actually do anything the is important. They want to do
what is fun at the time.

As the president I spend about 40 hours a week making sure the finances are
straight, making sure our social media is up to date, sending out request
to try and get us stuff that we can't afford, making sure the place is
clean for the next wave of new people who come through the door, making
sure the projector works for the classes we host, making sure
the refrigerator gets stocked with soda. I could keep going.

My point is it does not matter what gender you are. It matters whether or
not you actually do work which contributes to the future of the space. If
you want more women then go find them. If you want more say in what is
going on then offer to help take care of some of the task that need to be
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