Ada Lovelace day, October 7th, is a day for bloggers to write a story about an inspirational influence in their life in technology.
For me, there were two influential woman in my life as an undergraduate chemistry student in the early 90s at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. One was my first college chemistry professor, Anne McCowan, and the other was Butler’s scientific librarian, Mrs. Howes. Both influenced me through words, and bringing the importance of words to my attention. Professor McCowan stated on the first day of class:
“Chemistry is a study of nomenclature. Once you understand the naming and vocabulary, the world of chemistry is opened to you.”
It was such a simplification of an intimidating subject that it crystallized the learning process for me. If I studied the vocabulary, the rest would follow. And here I am, combining the wonder of worlds and technology every day.
So on today, Ada Lovelace day, I want to ask, how can OpenStack be a welcoming community for women in technology? I have ideas and want to share them with the community. These are both small ideas and large ideas.
- Inspire girls when they’re young. I have volunteered with an organization called GirlStart here in Austin, Texas, and I think they’ve got the right idea, influence girls to enter technology in middle school and elementary and encourage them to go to college. A few years ago I went to lunch once a month with middle school girls where we talked about simple ideas such as “what does it mean to be smart?” That group of girls will be in high school now, and I hope they find technology a good path for them.
- Invite women specifically. I spoke with Noirin Plunkett at OSCon this summer, and she said that women don’t necessarily have the confidence (or is it ego) to understand they are being specifically invited to participate in a tech initiative or open source project. You can specifically say to a group of female collage students for example, by saying “our project needs you specifically, not just your male colleagues.”
- Start in your neighborhood, at your company. Since Rackspace is a huge supporter and founder of OpenStack, we want to ensure that we bring our women to the project and make them feel like Stackers are their kind of people. Stackers are professional, mature, and respectful of each other. We certainly have heated discussions but all input is valuable. I want to start locally by inviting women to Austin Cloud User Group meetings, by recruiting women for Rackspace jobs, and putting myself out there constantly, which is not always comfortable but it is rewarding.
How about your perspective here? Where will you start and when? Let’s take these first steps towards inviting more women to join our open source cloud computing efforts.