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Getting More Women to Participate In Your Local Tech Meetup

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A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me via Twitter DM for advice on how to get more women participating in one of the meetups that he runs, specifically the San Diego Rust Meetup.

He’s already got a solid Code of Conduct, and he cares deeply about diversity and inclusion in his company and in the meetups he organizes, but San Diego presents a few unique challenges.

First, while San Diego does have a strong tech community, San Diego is also a big county, and the tech community is spread out, with meager public transportation. So much so that many meetups have to run two versions: one for north county and one for more southern areas. Between physical distance and unholy traffic, it’s just really difficult to get people to drive over an hour each way after a full day at work.

To make it even more fun, Rust is a reasonably niche language, so the Rust meetup is smaller than many other tech meetups in San Diego. By all accounts, Rust is a great language with a welcoming community, so odds are  good that our local Rust community will grow as the rest of the Rust community grows, but a quick glance at their Meetup page puts their average confirmed attendance at between 6-15 people.

To date, the San Diego Rust meetup has not had a single female attendee. Not one.

So, my first suggestion to him was to invite women to present at the meetup. Easy, right? Problem is, he doesn’t know a single female Rust user who is local and could therefore present at a meetup without a lot of additional cost.

Well, shit.

That obviously doesn’t mean there are literally no female Rust users in San Diego, it just means no one involved with the meetup knows about them.

I haven’t been actively involved in the organization of any meetups in at least a decade, but I know a lot of super-smart people on Twitter (including badass usergroup organizers and tech community builders), so I figured I’d ask around. San Diego challenges aside, there were some great suggestions that came through, so I thought I’d share them with you.

On Building the Pipeline

That’s… actually a great idea, and should have been obvious. Derp. I mean, of course. San Diego has plenty of community and state colleges.

Collaborating with Other Groups

Learn from Other Communities Who Are Doing it Right

Reaching out to leaders in the developer community space can also spark great discussions and ideas on how to broaden your reach. Talk to the folks who have already figured this stuff out.

Consider Your Venue (Where Possible)

Remote meetups certainly have their place, although I’m not sure they are a complete substitute for the in-person stuff (which I find builds local networks, friendships, etc), but certainly augmenting some meetings as virtual could be helpful for folks with family or schedule obligations.

This suggestion also falls into the “so brilliant and obvious, I’m embarrassed I didn’t think of it”. Your meetup presenters don’t always have to be in the room. You could easily stream them into the meeting room, allow Q&A after, etc.

Try Reaching Out Directly

Someone had suggested finding local women Rust developers via LinkedIn, and contacting them directly. While I could see that working, I could also see it being really creepy. Be careful and respectful. If you’re not sure if your direct message could be read as creepy, run it past a few of your female colleagues for sanity-checking.

Encourage Your Members to Mentor Women

A few folks suggested offering healthy food/snacks (no pizza? I’m out), not holding the event at a bar, providing child care, and making sure the venue itself is in a well-lit, non-creepy location.

In Closing…

Building a community takes time and work, especially when the language is young. (I remember being one of four people at the San Diego PHP User’s Group, back in 2002 or so). I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone, hopefully these suggestions give you a great place to start.

You can read the entire Twitter thread here, if you’re so inclined.

 

About the author

snipe

I’m a tech geek/dev/infosec-nerd/scuba diver/blacksmith/sword-fighter/crime fighter/ENTP/warcrafter/activist. I run Grokability, Inc, and run several open source projects, including Snipe-IT Asset Management. Tweet at me @snipeyhead or read more

By snipe
Snipe.Net Geeky, sweary things.

About Me

I’m a tech geek/dev/infosec-nerd/scuba diver/blacksmith/sword-fighter/crime fighter/ENTP/warcrafter/activist. I run Grokability, Inc, and run several open source projects, including Snipe-IT Asset Management. Tweet at me @snipeyhead or read more

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