Repost: Keeping it fair – a blog post about Adacamp [2012]

Note: This article was originally written March 2012 after attending an Adacamp in Melbourne. This article was originally published on an intranet for the company I worked for at the time. I thought it was interesting that many of these still exist and are just as valid today, therefore I am reposting here with only a few grammar/wording changes.

I was lucky to be invited to a great event named Adacamp, run by the Ada Institution. The newly created institution works to increase the participation of women in open technology and culture through education: raising awareness, writing simple ‘how to’ guides, teaching workshops for both men and women and helping women learn concrete skills.

The Ada Initiative is named after Countess Ada Lovelace, widely acknowledged as the world’s first computer programmer. She is also the world’s first woman open source programmer.

The organisation decided to hold the unconference style event called Adacamp in Melbourne at the start of 2012. It was an invite only event and I was lucky enough to receive an invite. The aim of the event was to bring together like minded woman, interested in issues facing women in open technology and culture, to share their experiences and develop ways to support and promote women in the field. One of the main aims of this event was to offer resources and expertise to help resolve or work to resolve issues women face in the industry.

For those of you who do not know what an unconference style event is, it’s when the participants come up with the agenda. We decide what we want to talk about and we’re all participants in the discussion around the topics.

The great thing about Adacamp was the range of participants. There were over 30 attendees, of which 3 were from the US, 2 from New Zealand and 1 lady from the Philippines. We were all from a wide range of roles, a political activist, journalist, scientist and a few developers.

I gained some great insights; here are a few topics that were real takeaways for me.

Spaghetti/Impostor syndrome

This is a real syndrome and is similar to tall poppy syndrome. Spaghetti or impostor syndrome is where you feel like you’re inadequate to do a job (like an impostor) or even feel guilty for being paid more to do your job. It tends to affect women but men can get it too.

One of the sad things to hear was that some corporations actually knew about this and used it to their advantage when negotiating pay rates while hiring woman. They would purposely start with a 5-10k lower offer for female applicants, knowing that they were unlikely to negotiate up. But one of the ways to combat this and ourselves is to understand what this syndrome is and working towards resolving it.

Another issue with Spaghetti/Impostor syndrome is down playing our successes. Again, knowing that you have this syndrome and being able to sell your success story is a key factor to moving up into new roles. Because of this syndrome people tend not to tell their success story when nominated for awards and achievements. This especially leads to women not being recognised within our industries.

Having a name for the syndrome allows us to take action. Knowing what happens we now know how to make it work.

One of the interesting points out of the discussion is that women are actually our own worst enemy. They’re usually the first to bring other woman down. Try to support others, don’t be jealous or pull others down. There needs to be a change of culture to support everyone. It’s all about education – help share what spaghetti syndrome is, it could help other men and women.

Social Media and Identities

We had a discussion around social media and today a lot of the social media tools are free. But for the cost of freedom you lose your privacy and information. People are more than happy to give up this ‘information’ for having a free product but do they understand the consequences of giving up the ‘information’?

Another topic we touched on is being open and honest on social media and the costs of that. Some people have been prosecuted by their employees on what they say or do on Social Media. But what if everyone is totally open and honest, is there anything they can use to get someone with? Or do the companies go after everyone?

There needs to be more education around social media for children, youth and for parents. For parents, just getting on and playing is the most educational. It will either teach your children to set their privacy controls or you’ll see stuff that you can address with them.

But the biggest question overall is where will data go in 18 years time? If Facebook is sold who gets your data?

How to get more women into Technology, IT & ICT?

We had a great discussion on how to get more women involved in technology. Some of the statistics show that less women are going through a technical degree at college. Going around the room we all found out that our passion for technology for the majority of us started when we were at primary school age. Therefore companies targeting women at universities is too late. We need to be helping teachers teach technology to younger girls to ignite their passion earlier. Not to mention career conferences are vital to show the great side of technology. It’s a perception that it’s full of geeks and is boring.

We discussed many more subjects such as the philosophies behind communities, what fandom is and how valuing fandom values women’s work and preventing volunteer burnout.

It was a great event that I was very lucky enough to attend. I appreciate being in the room with other inspirational women from around the world. 

The Ada Initiative closed in October 2015.