What is the Powder Room?

Young Girl's Network

In his PyCon keynote, Electoronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow gives a shoutout to the very active female Python coder community. When talking about what makes the Python community work, he recounts (around 14:29):

One of the things that occurred to me when I first encountered the internet, I turned to my friend Mitch Kapor, with whom I started the , I said "At last, it's a working anarchy" and he said "well probably, but it's been my observation that inside every working anarchy there's an old boy's network" and well, you know, in this case, we may have a young girl network that's coming along

So the YG club totally exists-like go to any Python event and there's the distinct feeling that all the women know each other- and is this really interesting mix of old school and democratic. The women who are the public face of the community are for the most part demographically similar to the men who run tech-predominantly white, mostly young, and generally from elite schools. But, there's also a very low barrier to entering the club: interact with people at conferences and on twitter and mailing lists and just get well known.


So, what is it about the Python community that women are visible and sometimes even powerful? And that led to them having 1/3 of their speakers and audience being female? Well, mostly, and Barlow alludes to this in his keynote, that Python wants women in their community. They encourage it to an almost unparalleled degree. Besides having loads of talks (and a keynote!) related to getting more women into tech, they also support efforts to bring women into the community. Pyladies, which is a mentorship group, benefits from being under the Python Software Foundation umbrella. It managed to raise $40,000 that it gave out in scholarships for women to attend PyCon. This year, PyCon also had a fantastic chair of outreach whose job it was to actively recruit speakers and she gave potential speakers lots of support and feedback (she helped me through all my proposal's rounds of revisions).

And so what's the big takeway? That women aren't inherently averse to tech. Just make the community welcoming and we'll show up in droves, and contribute, and possibly even gain parity in influence.

Image source: PyLadies [logo usage guide]

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