what might a ladies.js group look like?

I’ve wondered off and on why there’s no group similar to PyLadies or RailsBridge for women who work with JavaScript. And I’m curious if such a group is something people identifying as women within this community would be interested in. I tweeted about this, but it’s hard to capture it well with 140 characters, so here are my ideas. If you’re in the target demographic or have experience with similar groups for other languages, I’d really love to hear your thoughts.

main goal: support women in the community

I can only speak for Austin, but we have a shitload of amazing JS meetups, broad and specific, front-end and server-side. These focus on disseminating technical knowledge and are great. At least in my area, another tech talk JS meetup is not needed.

Though I think meeting women in your town working in your language is super fun and valuable, I think any meetup component of this group could be informal, done in a coffeeshop, and secondary to the group’s primary existence which would be online and at conferences and hackathons drawing people from all over the place. I’d like this to layer over existing local meetups and not have to compete with them for content or timeslots, but instead funnel people toward those they might be interested in and provide them with buddies they now already know to meet up with there.

So, then, what would the more formal online component of this include?

resources

Localized lists of JS meetups and events. Connections to similar groups for the polyglots in the audience. Beginner-level training options for those merely curious at this stage. Organizations needing JS teachers or trainers. Translations to other (human) languages.

news items

Shared among all locales. Conference CFPs. Grant or fellowship opportunities. Opportunities for advanced-level training. Open source projects needing help. Truly broad news about JavaScript as a language. Fact-based, engineering-specific articles about furthering one’s career.

visibility

A member bio from everyone with their experience, goals, and links to github, talks, writing, and other materials. A “member of the month” or something from each locale introducing someone who’s ready to interact more with the community at large and has valuable expertise to share.

connections

Roster of members attending conferences or other events. Commitment from all members that any other member can come hang out with them at community events so they never have to act like “one of the guys” when they don’t feel like it. Attempt at some sort of high availability distributed mentoring, especially for people in more senior roles cause there isn’t a lot of that.

partners

Mutual cosigning with JavaScript projects and community organizations. They support our goals and approach; we recommend them as welcoming, safe, and good places to get involved. We emphasize that this effort is not meant to be in isolation or an alternative to participation in the wider community.

intersectionality

As women, we have an advantage over most other categories of underrepresented people in that in almost any context we’re the majority of humans (even if not the majority of coders), so when women-type issues come up we can hope there’ll be someone to get our backs. That puts us in a strong position to remind everyone to consider all kinds of diversity. What we achieve, we should pay forward.


This is pulling from a lot of different places and isn’t necessarily modeled on any one group. Not because any other group’s approach is bad, but because I am one person and this is the group I would personally like to see exist. A lot of these things exist already, but aren’t specific to any language or niche, and for me that makes it hard to feel part of a community instead of just a consumer of a news source. However, such a group needs legitimacy, and for it to have that it needs to make sense to other people, also. Therefore, again, please give me all of your thoughts as to where this is on the right track and where it is not, and let me know if you’d be willing to organize participation in your locale.

feedback

Sue pointed out that IRC would be awesome for this. Added bonus, it doesn’t require the organization of any of this other stuff and is easy to get off the ground to test out whether this is useful and makes people feel better or worse.

Jordan asked for resources for non-women who want to help, too, which is a good idea. A number of groups, for instance The Ada Initiative and Black Girls Code, accept donations, which is an easy thing to do if you just want to provide support. Actively championing such causes takes a little more effort, but is great when it happens, for example nicely asking conference organizers if they can add more diversity to their lineups and recommending some folks you’d love to see speak. And at a personal level, the Stemming the Tide study suggests that simply remembering to express appreciation for the contributions of your peers and colleagues can be a factor in keeping them from leaving the industry. Again, this is a place where other people should totally weigh in.

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5 Responses to “what might a ladies.js group look like?”

  1. Buck Says:

    I’m not in the target demographic but I’m glad to read you say “people identifying as women” and have a focus on intersectionality!

  2. Michelle Says:

    I think it’s cool. Would be a nice change than working with a bunch of dudes all the time. Perhaps a new dynamic? I’m in London, UK

  3. klh Says:

    I’m in Austin, and some of us have been considering this (though with a focus on angularjs, since that’s where about 4-5 of us are already focused). I’ve been tossing around the idea of a meetup group for angular-women, but it’d be awesome to have a broader/overall group for ladies.js. Either way, I’d definitely be glad to help with any Austin plans.

  4. Tim Chevalier Says:

    This is somewhat of a bikeshed, but may I suggest women.js instead of ladies.js? I know a lot of women — and genderqueer folks who may not identify as male or female but would still feel more welcome in a women’s group than in what’s effectively a men’s group (i.e. everything else) — who would feel excluded by a group that was for “ladies”, whereas “women” includes more people. For example: me, back when I identified as genderqueer rather than male. At that time in my life, I would assumed a group with “ladies” in the name wasn’t for me, but I also wasn’t generally recognized as male and thus was as liable to grunches when in a group of all men as anybody else.

  5. garann Says:

    @klh – Awesome! Still sort of waiting to see if there’s more feedback/interest, but if I (or anyone else) starts something up, it’d be great to have Angular devs represented. :)

    @Tim – Thanks for the feedback, but I agree that it’s a bit bikesheddy. To be clear, I give absolutely no kind of shit what such a group would be called, largely because I’m completely sick of discussions around proper naming of groups for women. I admit that I don’t know, also, how “women” is any more inclusive than “ladies”. To me, ladies is the one of the two that seems more loosely gendered, and I think that illustrates the problem. Some people who identify as women hate being referred to as “girls”, some dislike “ladies”, “gals”, “chicks”, “broads”, “bitches”, and yes, even “women”. My hard-won opinion on this topic is that there is no perfect word that inclusively describes all the people with enough biologically or culturally feminine traits that they feel to some extent “female” and that we could all stand to worry a little less about what we’re calling ourselves and a little more about actually participating in these groups and the discussions that come out of them on a less superficial level. The very concept of femaleness is loaded with judgements and stereotypes, and the words that attempt to sum it up, unsurprisingly, reflect that. It’s very hard to talk about the effects of being somewhat female, though, without using them, so we work with what we’ve got.