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Ada Lovelace Day reflections: encouraging women tinkerers and fixers

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We’ve written in past about the challenges of getting more women tinkerers and repairers participating in our community electronics repair events. And we started strong in 2014 with a series of women’s skillshares, facilitated by some of the most inspiring women we know in tech, on a volunteer basis.

But we lost steam. Not making excuses, but I (Janet speaking here) refer here to Mel Chua’s amazing post about how tiring it is to try and “fix” problems in technical communities – problems that merely mirror larger societal problems.

Thanks to Ada Lovelace Day, and frankly missing the camaraderie our women skillshares, we convened a meetup last night to try and breathe new life into our lapsed efforts to show that more than one gender knows how to fix, hack and maintain gadgets.

From the diverse group of women in attendance, we got some creative, fun and life-affirming ideas about how to recruit women volunteers, interest women and girls more broadly, and keep this issue square in the middle of all of our outreach.

We heard from a self-described “ancient coder” about how things have changed – for the worse – over the years. And another participant’s personal story was proof that many women with DIY and electrical skills in London learned them in squats.

With renewed commitment, we will be planning women’s skillshares on

  • Building a computer, understanding how they work
  • DIY solar panels and/or bike generators
  • Rewiring lamps as an introduction to electricals

Also noting that every single thing we said about including women in our community events applies more broadly to under-represented groups. When we are mapping projects for women and girls to reach out to, we need include projects related to mental illness, homelessness, young people at risk, and other excluded groups.

Please get in touch if you’d like to get involved.

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