Warning: This post is a downer (AKA depressing).
Intended Audience: Organizers of women in tech related Meetups. Also applicable to meetups or events of other under-represented groups.
17 Situations You’re Going To Face As a Women in Tech Meetup Organizer
Situation #1: Man Wants Female Devs And Will Pay For Dev Time
Awesome. Treat them professionally but don’t give them “cookies”. Someone being willing to pay for something they need is not a miracle and doesn’t deserve to be fawned over.
Situation #2: Man Wants Female Dev Time and Won’t Pay for It
Ugh. Way too common. Be strong enough not to roll your eyes (to their face!) and find a way to point out to them how ridiculous a notion that is. (Idea: Ask them if they would do X for you for free.)
Situation #3: Women Want to Learn How to Code
This is easy! This is why you started organizing the meetup in the first place. Yay for helping people! Answer allllll the questions!
Situation #4: Women Want Code Help That’s Higher Than Your Skill Level (or Not in a Language You Know)
Reach out to a mentor or teach the student how to ask for help in a tech Slack.
Remember StackOverflow. StackOverflow has the potential to be really harsh and toxic for newbies, so make sure you teach them best practices for how to ask questions on StackOverflow so they don’t have a bad first experience.
Situation #5: Someone is Disruptive
Any event organizer has to deal with this. Make sure you: monitor your meetup for situations that have the potential to escalate, have practiced beforehand how to speak to someone who is being disruptive, have a code of conduct(COC), and know your contacts and back-up plans.
Situation #6: Recruiters Want You to Help Them Do Their Job Without Paying You & You Either Feel Guilty for Passing Along Job Posts for Companies You Know Aren’t Friendly OR You Feel Guilty for Passing Along Job Posts for Companies You Haven’t Personally Vetted OR You Feel Guilty for Not Passing Along Job Posts for Companies Because You Don’t Have Time to Vet Them
Pick a policy and be consistent. Find a way for the recruiters to reach your audience directly so there is no implied endorsement of the company and/or post the job posts but with a prominent disclaimer about how they aren’t vetted in anyway.
Situation #7: Events & Other Organizers Want You to Do Their Marketing
Ask for a link to their COC. 9 times out of 10 they don’t have one and 8 times out of 10 they don’t know what a COC is. If you have a policy not to mention or promote events without a COC it cuts down on a TON of cruft.
Situation #8: In a Room With a Bunch of Women, Sensitive Issues Are Gonna Come Up At Some Point
Try to make sure the space feels safe for everyone, which may include asking participants to be careful in their choice of language, changing the topic, reminding them of the code of conduct, and/or excusing them or yourself if necessary.
Situation #9: Someone Says Something Offensive Without Realizing It Because They are Clueless
You’ll be frustrated it’s happening and you’ll be frustrated you have to put on your teacher hat, but be patient with them.
Situation #10: Someone Says Something Offensive Without Realizing It Because They are a Jerk
Refer to your code of conduct, refer them to reference material like the Geek Feminism wiki, and have your points of contact for escalation and back-up at the ready.
Situation #11: Someone Needs Emotional Support You Aren’t Willing, Qualified, Able, and/or Currently Capable of Giving
Have a list of therapists in your metaphorical back-pocket and the Crisis Text Line number memorized. Make sure if you use the Crisis Text Line that the person needing assistance is the one who uses their phone to do the texting.
Situation #12: You’re Helping Other Women Survive a Male-Dominated Field While Trying to Survive it Yourself
- Make sure you have co-organizers.
- Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. #justsayno
Situation #13: Your Meeting Space Gets Jeopardized
Your contact at the company that’s generously donating their space is moving to a different company, the hosting contact is staying but the company doesn’t want you there anymore, etc. These things happen. Ask around to find new space.
While it’s best to keep the same recurring date/time for your meetup, if you have to change it and the people who used to come can’t make it anymore make it into a happy thing that you’re meeting new people and make sure you have a way to stay in touch with them.
Situation #14: Someone at Your Meetup Gets Angry At You For Not Being Perfect
Listen to them. Explain why it is the way it is and how it came to be. Make sure they understand the constraints you are under. Ask for suggestions on how to make improvements next time. Make sure you listen. Forgive yourself for not being perfect – remember, no one is.
Situation #15: You Have to Moderate a Dispute
Stay neutral when possible. Always make sure everyone is listened to. Act under your Code of Conduct.
Situation #16: You Have to Enforce Your Code of Conduct
This is the opposite of fun, but you have the code of conduct for a reason. You did the advance work, now just stick to what it says. If someone is trying to rules-smith or word-lawyer on you it’s okay to fall back on the spirit of the document. It’s okay to play “I’m the organizer” card. It’s okay to call in back-up.
Situation #17: Thanks For Your Work Will Be Rare
It’s rare. Thank the person for thanking you. Keep a mental note or a physical journal of when it happens to look back at on the days when a thank you would have meant everything to you.
How to Prepare
This is the list of helpful reference points the Chicago Women Developers Meetup organizers came up with in order to be ready for these situations. We keep this information in a Google Doc that’s pinned in our private Slack channel within the Chicago Tech Diversity Initiative Slack Team.
- Link to Code of Conduct wording
- Contact Information
- Crisis Text Line
- 911 (in the heat of the moment you could forget)
- Situation Handling
- Go-To Phrases
- Post-Situation Actions
- Communicate to other organizers about the situation that happened so they know about it (aren’t blindsided, are consistent next time, can participate in any needed iteration on how to handle it next time, etc.).
If you have a situation to add, advice to share, or general feedback please let me know through the Contact Me form or in the comments on this post.