Last year I had an experience that drove home for me that with thoughtful attention and some hard work, software communities that seemed irrevocably homogenous can successfully open up and become more inclusive. Despite the amount of attention I personally pay to issues around women in software development, I have to admit that I have harbored not a small amount of pessimism about how much we can actually change the ratio.
While I certainly still have a healthy amount of concern about the difficulties in increasing diversity in computing, I have changed my mind about what is possible to accomplish. Last year, I had some personal and career upheaval that provided me with one of those rare opportunities to really sit back and take stock of things. Every minute of my time and attention had been eaten up by either work or family for 10+ years, and I decided that it was time to start giving back. I want to bring along many more women into computing. So I looked around at the technical communities that I am a part of, and Clojure stood out as the perfect community within which to increase diversity.
Clojure is where I’ve been spending most of my technical “me time.” I haven’t used it at work yet, but I have been, here and there, learning, reading all the books, and attending my local Clojure meetup. I have also been to three out of the four Clojure/Conjs. The community is filled with very smart, curious, interesting, cool people. It is very open, and everyone is dying to share what they know with newcomers. You can see at the local meetups, dojos, etc. that many people are trying to get the word out to people who are curious about Clojure.
What I have chosen to do is work on ClojureBridge. Sean Corfield and Sarah Allen first had the idea to take the model of RailsBridge and apply it to Clojure. After I got back from Strange Loop last year, I started asking around to Alex Miller and to the awesome folks at Cognitect about what was happening with ClojureBridge. It’s great to know that everyone who is involved with Clojure is super busy – that means the language is taking off. It also means that it is hard to get something going like this that involves volunteer time. I wasn’t working then, so I motivated the interested parties – Lynn Grogan, Maggie Litton, Clinton Dreisbach, Alex Miller, Sean – to get things moving. Eventually, Yoko Harada, Jamie Kite, and Jennifer Eliuk, also got involved.
After we introduced the idea at the last Clojure/Conj, we received a ton of interest. Almost 600 people have registered interest at the web site. From everything I have seen, there is a huge amount of interest in both building up beginner materials and bringing diversity to the community. Since the community is very young, I think there is a big opportunity right now to make that happen. If we let it go any longer, the white dudeness of the community is going to be entrenched and will get much harder to fix.
We are starting with offering beginner-friendly workshops for women, but we will expand from there once we get some experience running workshops. The first one is in Durham, NC on April 4-5, 2014. The second is in San Francisco on May 2-3, 2014. We have developed a curriculum for the workshop, and we have an approach. Wherever we can, we are doing what the amazing people at RailsBridge have done before us so as not to reinvent the wheel. For example, we are using their workshop organizing cookbook and using the same format of evening Installfest followed by all-day workshop. We hope to learn a lot at these initial workshops and will incorporate those lessons into the curriculum and future workshops.
I am so excited to see these workshops happen. Thanks so much to everyone who is putting in tons of hours because they believe so much in the goals.