The women of Drupal: an Ada Lovelace Day appreciation

On this Ada Lovelace Day, I wracked my brain for someone to write about, and came up blank — not because I couldn't think of anyone, but because I can't pick out the one woman in technology or science who's exceptional in some way, because there are so many. So I'm writing about a group of women who who mostly don't know each other but are united by a project that's dear to them, and to me: Drupal.

Meet the Drupalchix

photo of DrupalchixThe Drupalchix gathered for lunch at DrupalCon DC 2009. An impressive bunch of people!

The Drupalchix are one important part of why I'm involved with Drupal. Back in 2004, when I was an anonymous n00b in the Drupal community, the few voices of women were encouragement to me.

When I finally attended my first Drupal "conference," OSCMS 2007, I was incredibly nervous — all the more so because I was leading two sessions. The people there were incredibly friendly. I met Dries and Karoly and many other Drupaleros and Drupalistas. But then I went to the code sprint after the conference, and met Angie Byron and Addison Berry, who really could not have been more extremely welcoming and friendly, helping people out on all kinds of things. (And helping me out with CVS.)

After DrupalCon Boston 2008, I blogged on BlogHer about the many women I met there — and how all together in numbers we accounted for only 7% of the attendees.

At DrupalCon Barcelona 2008 we had a BOF where several of us got together and talked about stuff, including how we got involved. And we found that every one of us was incredibly nervous and intimidated and a touch overwhelmed when we started engaging the community. I wrote about it then:

What struck me was that we noticed the same thing in the Deeply Geeky session at BlogHer 2006: nearly all the women in tech who were present were self-taught. The message: it's never too late.

Meet Robin. ("robeano"). She just did first commit on signit module. How did she learn coding? Don't look at her academic background: she studied business administration. Now she's working for a large Drupal development company.

Say hello to Sophea ("ms.static") from Helsinki (by way of Sydney and Delhi). She got into Drupal through experimental sound and participatory radio. She describes herself as more of an audio geek than a coder, but has found her interest in collaborative audio systems has drawn her into the Drupal community. Now she's interested in pushing Drupal in terms of handling sound.

Tracy is with Greenpeace. She started learning Drupal only this past spring. She had been working with Cold Fusion for 10 years, and ended up managing the web side of the Greenpeace UK office.

Zoe ("zoeyk") is an information architect. Before sitting down at our round table, she was wondering what she's doing here at DrupalCon "with all these guys." She comes out of the non-profit arts organizing and curating world, and got involved in technology more from the user side. She finds Drupal challenging, so she's trying to ease into the Drupal world. I think that's how a lot of us felt at the start.

Then there's Stephanie ("stephthegeek"). She says she's always been a geek, but fakes being a programmer. (We all laughed.) She does freelance work as a themer.

Working and playing in the Drupal community, I feel very fortunate to have such a great group to have as even distant semi-colleagues. Only today I found support and advice on Twitter regarding setting up Apache, MySQL and PHP on Mac from Brenda Boggs of Acquia.

Kate LawrenceKate, co-founder of PINGV and collaborator since 2003.

One Drupalchick I'm especially appreciative of is my business partner, Kate. Never mind that she's something of a genius. She's been a good friend. And it's great to have a sister geek across the room to laugh and cry with.

Collaborating with Jen, our Interaction Designer, has also been a pleasure. Nothing like great talent to brighten the work day!

You know, we didn't set out to start a so-called "women-owned company," but here we are, and it's been great. Do women bring something special, something different, to tech-related work that men don't? Perhaps. But I feel the differences between people in other ways are far greater than the differences between gender when it comes to things geeky.

But there is something else....

Remembering our worth

A few days ago, my Mom sent me one of those pass-along emails that claim to be full of insight, wisdom, humor or whatever but usually are just annoying? Well, this one wasn't annoying. This one was about how awesome women are:

Women have strengths that amaze men.....
They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
but they hold happiness, love and joy.
They smile when they want to scream.
They sing when they want to cry.
They cry when they are happy
and laugh when they are nervous.
They fight for what they believe in..
They stand up to injustice.
They don't take "no" for an answer
when they believe there is a better solution.
They go without so their family can have.
They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
They love unconditionally.
They cry when their children excel
and cheer when their friends get awards.
They are happy when they hear about
a birth or a wedding.
Their hearts break when a friend dies.
They grieve at the loss of a family member,
yet they are strong when they
think there is no strength left.
They know that a hug and a kiss
can heal a broken heart.
Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you
to show how much they care about you.
The heart of a woman is what
makes the world keep turning.
They bring joy, hope and love.
They have compassion and ideas.
They give moral support to their
family and friends.
Women have vital things to say
and everything to give.

However, if there is one flaw in women,
it is that they forget their worth.

In the tech world, not just in the Drupal world but throughout technology, there are women who are just awesome, and who maybe just maybe tend to undervalue their own worth. If you know one of these women, remind her.

We want to work with you!