By Bela Hamid
“Climate change? Don’t worry - tech will save humanity. We could live on a spacecraft whilst figuring out how to inhabit another planet. We’ll 3D print food!” said no new mum, ever, (as far as I can tell in the last three years that I’ve been attending various playgroups across this city and meeting other mothers).
We need a variety of voices to help reveal those issues that need to be addressed the most and to surface solutions that sit in the minds, experiences, and perspectives of those who are currently underrepresented in the tech industry.
With tech playing a greater role in every part of our lives - in education, healthcare, social services, finance, environment - it’s vital that many voices are heard. I am both a mother and a woman of colour. We may be minorities in the tech industry but we are not so in the world.
As far as tech conferences go, allocating diversity tickets communicates that organisers care about people from underrepresented groups having a presence, and acknowledges that there are barriers in front of some groups that do not appear in front of others.
By allocating diversity tickets, the organisers of Scotland CSS & Scotland JS built a bridge connecting people from underrepresented groups to the tech industry. As a full-time mother with limited funds and limited childcare options, without the free diversity tickets, and more importantly, the offer of free childcare facilities, it would have been impossible for me to attend the conferences for the full three days.
Childcare at ScotlandJS & ScotlandCSS
The availability of childcare facilities at both Scotland CSS & Scotland JS was incredible! Not only did this mean that I could attend, it also meant that I could focus! This cannot be emphasised enough.
I could concentrate on the talks being delivered and the networking opportunities on offer without being distracted with worry. I knew that my child was onsite. I knew that he was being taken care of. I knew that I could be reached easily if needed. Long days in unfamiliar places are not ideal for a 3 yr old. I knew that I could go and see him during breaks to make him feel safe and reassured. So a peaceful and receptive mind is what the onsite childcare facilities meant to me.
In addition, I could stay all day for each of the three days as opposed to picking just a morning or afternoon to attend.
Once women have children they often aren’t offered the same opportunities to learn, build relationships, work on career-building projects, because of biases against mothers and assumptions about what will be best for them and what they might prefer. Conferences that offer childcare facilities make it easier for mothers or other carers of small children to participate in events that will allow them to make meaningful connections or gain valuable knowledge.
What I gained by attending
Attending Scotland CSS & Scotland JS allowed me to maintain and strengthen relationships with people I have met through professional interests and whom I like a lot but rarely get to see outside of events such as these.
Going to events is not only about meeting new people but reconnecting with people you already know. Solidifying existing but not yet strong relationships is important. The more interactions you have with acquaintances, the more likely you are to strengthen these ties and deepen those connections.
Over the past year I have been learning to code and am currently building a portfolio of projects that I will use to secure my first software development role. It was at Scotland CSS that I first learnt about CSS Grid and this allowed me to make some technical decisions to move one of my projects forward.
Furthermore, I was also able to share what I’d learned about CSS Grid at a later date with a frontend developer who was newly coaching me. He found this knowledge valuable and I believe it gave me some credibility as as a student who is clearly committed to learning and growing as a software developer, and strengthened our relationship. This in turn will impact the quality of support that I will receive from him.
Finally, the conference organisers offered attendees the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be on stage in front of a large audience, without the pressure of having to give a talk. It had been a while since I was last in front of a large audience so I was happy to take part and was surprised to find I was a little nervous.
It can be awesome and overwhelming to be on stage and have hundreds of pairs of eyes on you...you don’t want the first time you feel that way to be when you have to hold yourself together, present yourself as an expert and give a talk...
I am incredibly grateful to, and have an extremely high opinion of, the organisers for going to the effort of providing onsite care facilities. The organisers set a high standard for what a diverse and inclusive tech conference should look like and I will judge all future tech events against this. A massive thank you to the organisers!!!!