A Feminist Hackerspace At Tech Jam

Code for BTV loves to lend a hand in the tech community - especiallly when promoting equality and justice.

In the planning for this year's Tech Jam, someone came up with the idea of having a space set aside for women and non-binary folk who are techies to get together, have coffee, support eachother's tech goals, and share war stories from the tech trenches.

The realization of the Feminist Hackerspace started with a conversation between Maureen from Girl Develop It and Cathy Resmer of Seven Days, the organization sponsoring TechJam. Because there was not a lot of lead time, many logistical decisions were made on the fly. For example, Cathy did not have guidance from sponsors for setup, and sponsors and volunteers did not know how big the space would be, nor how much/what kind of furniture would be provided.

Despite the unknowns and short timeline, Maureen seemed to feel it was do-able, and she reached out to Code for BTV to ask for help - she wanted the space at Tech Jam to be more than a corner with a folding table and some folding chairs. She wanted it to be welcoming and comfortable. Maybe even "hip." Code for BTV stepped up!

Code for BTV worked with the organizer and we came up with a plan.

  1. Rent a U-Haul, bring it by our home base.
  2. Get a few helping hands from our circle of supporters to stop by first thing on the Saturday morning of Tech Jam.
  3. With permission from our partner, Big Heavy World, load up all of the hip and comfy furniture available at the Big Heavy World office to the U-Haul.
  4. Truck it over to Tech Jam and fill the feminist hackerspace with awesome.
  5. Organize a couple women from Code for BTV's circle of supporters to hang out at the hackerspace and both watch over it and be ambassadors.
  6. At the end of the day, bring it all back to Big Heavy World.

 

Our Captain Jim and a relatively new, but energetic member of Code for BTV, Christina, loaded the furniture into a 15’ rented truck around 7AM. There were 2 plush chairs, a plush sofa, a coffee table with a plant and a candelabra (battery-operated tea lights), and a kitchenette (round table & 2 bar stools). Christina also brought an end table, and Jenny brought a plant, which was hung by the entrance. The furniture was unloaded around 9AM, and placed at the back of the room, where there was space. Just prior to the start of TechJam, Seven Days staff brought balloons to brighten up the space, and arranged for Expo staff to set up electrical outlets at 4 of the 6 tables.

Each volunteer returned home briefly to get her laptop, or arranged for someone to bring it. After that, the volunteers sat at the cozy nook and chatted. The signs out front of the space garnered plenty of attention. Toward the end of the day, the kitchenette was used to display handouts and candy near the entrance, and the volunteers chatted while using their laptops at the table nearest the entrance. 

 

A number of folks stopped in and chatted - here are a few...

  1. A young woman from India, more recently from Montana, who had just gotten her green card and wanted to work in the tech industry.
  2. An older woman who had recently moved to the area, and who wanted to begin networking with other tech professionals.
  3. A young woman who wanted to train for a technical job.
  4. A young woman who recently moved to the area and was interested in assuming a leadership role with GDI.

Jim and Christina began loading up the truck with the furniture at about 2:45. The event ended at 3PM. The furniture was returned by 3:45PM.

The plan went very well. Despite the very short notice to organize, the hackerspace took shape and operated all day on the Saturday of Tech Jam. Two of our newer members (Christina and Jenny) worked the space, along with Maureen, and used the time to come up with new plans for an event better space next year!