Diversity in practice: How the Boston Python User Group grew to 1700 people and over 15% womenΒΆ

Presenter: Jessica McKellar , Asheesh Laroia

Track: III


How do you bring more women into programming communities with long-term, measurable results? In this talk we’ll analyze our successful effort, the Boston Python Workshop, which brought over 200 women into Boston’s Python community this year. We’ll talk about lessons learned running the workshop, the dramatic effect it has had on the local user group, and how to run a workshop in your city.


Diverse membership makes user groups better

It’s more dynamic, you can run different event styles. And you can learn from a larger set of skills

Diversity outreach can help user groups grow.

The Boston Python Workshop

An intro to python event mainly focused on women. The are maintainers of the OpenHatch project.


  • A simple observation that there were almost no women in the group
  • no pipeline for newcomers / beginners
  • instead of creating a new group, change the existing group from within for more diversity


  • Get more women in the community - target was 15% women
  • Use the workshops has a platform to showcase great women programmers
  • Encourage other user groups to think about diversity

History so far

  • been doing these for the past year
  • almost 200 women have went through and became part of the group
  • created a large volunteer base and beginner’s pipeline
  • a ‘project night’ is the next follow up meeting to a workshop

Workshop structure

  • it’s a 2 day workshop

  • the first day you get the computer setup. the next day is more hands on in learning Python.

  • Friday is the setup day
    • they have install instructions on how to install python on multiple operating systems
    • get a basic text editor setup
    • get the basics of the interpreter
    • all the information is on OpenHatch online
  • Saturday is a lecture
    • learn about the basic information they need to do the practices

    • after the lecture the do a serious of hands-on projects

    • a choice of 3 different projects
      • color wall, twitter api and a wordplay exercise
    • projects are part lecture and part hands-on
      • first half is the basics
      • second half is giving them excercises to work through
    • wrap-up
      • how to learn python on their own
      • fill out a survey
  • this has had a huge impact on the user group
    • 3 organizers now
    • 1800 members
    • lightning talks
    • hack nights
    • lots of social engagments
    • bi-montly workshops and monthly project nights
  • Relfection & Sharing
    • Why’d you sign up (from the surveys)
      • women focused, judgment-free, free to attend
    • “Feeling welcome in what felt like a closed world to me” - feedback after workshop

  • Now there is more coding practice and more simplified projects
    • this needs to be beginner friendly
  • How we share?
    • curriculum on wiki - everything is opensource
    • events mailing list
    • OpenHatch blog
  • Scaling up
    • from 25 person events to 80 person events
    • be good at content refinement and reuse
    • uses codingbat.com at the workshops
  • at the project-nights there is always a beginners corner
    • using the same material from the workshops
  • Scaling out: impact beyond boston
    • other groups are using the content
    • pyladies
    • PyStar philly + PhillyPUG
  • has had a big impact on pycon 2012

  • Next steps
    • sustain things in boston
    • go from local impact to global impact
  • What’s your next step
    • run a project night
      • easy to organize, beginners’ corner, set the tone
    • run an intro event
      • pick a goal and stick to it
      • utilize the existing user group memebers
      • reuse material!
    • iterate