Being a speaker on the DEF CON101 Talks was an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only did it better me as a speaker, but it helped me to network and grow as a professional, and provided me with cohorts who had similar experiences to mine. Behind the scenes, I met peers who are quickly turning into friends. After the panel concluded, I invited everyone present to join me for a dinner and discussion after the talk. Many stopped by to inform me that the diversity discussion was a wonderful presentation for them. Throughout the next day, I was stopped periodically and told by people how much it meant for them to see this type of inclusion effort present at DEF CON. I think it stands not only to represent the diversity and strength of the DEFCON culture, but shows how much these types of efforts are wanted and needed.
I became involved with DEF CON through NCWIT, or the National Center for Women and Information Technology (ncwit.org), where I met leaders in Vegas 2.0 at the NCWIT Summit in which I participated in a small flash talk. I was invited to speak last year when they made a first attempt at the diversity panel. This year's panel was larger, had a more active audience, and seemed to have a greater impact on them. I hope to continue my participation in the diversity panel next year, as well as future years to come. There were people who made suggestions for various types of people to include in the panel for future years because they were enthralled with this concept.
It is not only gender, race, and sexuality that we must represent on these panels. People can feel isolated or intimidated for any number of reasons and having open discussions like these helps to remove stigmas and causes a more open and accepting technology culture. We are estimated to have a shortage of roughly one million competent technology professionals by the year 2020. If we work to increase low diversity participation rates we will make the world's technology stronger and fill the necessary talents gaps.
Technology is a globalizing tool, uniting the human species across perceived nationality, language, and cultural barriers. To have a panel where the full girth of the various individuals who contribute to technology is comforting for many to see. It allows people, who may normally be slightly timid about joining a specific technology culture, to see themselves in it and find acceptance.
In addition to speaking on diversity panels, which shed more light on low participation rates in technology, I also am running technology based after-school programs. I have run three of these programs through the NCWIT AspireIT grant, which focuses on increasing female participation rates at the middle-school level, during the 2013-2014 school year. These programs concluded with a lively banqueted awards ceremony where the young ladies were individually recognized for their accomplishments.
The program, originally named IT Girls, has been re-branded IT Girls 2.0 and will be resuming in early 2015. It is held within the Developer's Club website, which happens to be temporarily under maintenance. When the Developer's Club system goes live on its original domain, it will bolster tools for students, teachers, and regular users to interact with, and will be releasing materials for executable technology based after-school programs.
These resources will include after-school program materials, video tutorials, learning content,and an interactive website. Currently, our programs are only for students from grades 7 through 12. The K-6 resources and after-school programs will be released on a sub-domain of the Developer's Club website in 2016.
To find out more information, or contribute to the Developer's Club program, please contac the author at: [email protected].