Back in May, I attended the ACT-W conference. It stands for a Conference to Advance the Careers of Tech Women, which “supports, empowers, and educates women in technology while creating a sense of belonging and community.” True to its mission, ACT-W is by far the most inclusive conference I’ve attended.
It’s no secret that gender bias exist in the tech industry. There has been a host of media attention paid to the topic within the last few years. I can relate my own anecdotal experience where I was compensated less for the same role, put on “busy” type work, and been the recipient of offhand comments like, “you don’t look like a developer”. Combined, over time this type of treatment slowly wears spirits down. It’s easy to see why many women abandon the field.
That’s why ACT-W is so important, particularly here in Portland where it’s supposedly the worst place in the US for women in tech. Meeting other women in the industry and hearing their experiences inspires me to keep at it. If nothing else it was nice being around others that can relate to the problems with the so called brogrammer work culture (ugh, just that typing that word makes me cringe). I’ve attended twice and come back from it feeling renewed and hopeful both times.
The highlight for me this year was an Arduino LED lantern workshop. We soldered RGB LED lights to an Adafruit trinket board and customized the bulb display through a bit of Arduino code. It was my first time working with a soldering iron and was a little nervous about screwing up. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. It was a nice change of pace to make something for the physical world versus a web application.
Here’s my light cycle in action:
If you’re a woman in tech or considering a STEM career, check out ACT-W in your city. You won’t regret it.