Diversity in Practice

“How the Boston Python User Group grew to 1700 people and over 15% women”

  • by Jessica McKellar , Asheesh Laroia
  • Boston Python user group organizers
  • PSF members
  • PSF outreach and education committed members
  • Open hatch
  • FOSS


  • Diversity membership makes user groups better.
  • Diversity outreach helps user groups group


  • No women at user group events
  • No pipeline for newcomers / beginners.
  • To fix it, they decided to change things from within


  1. Bring more women into the community. Get to 15%
  2. Show examples of great women programmers
  3. Encourage other user groups to think about diversity

Workshop goals

  • workshops + follow up events
  • Over 200 women alums
  • Large volunteer base
  • Beginner’s stay inside!


How they do it:

Friday: Spaces

  • Windows and Python sucks.
  • Fixing tabs versus spaces
  • Practice with the interpreter
  • All their materials are available on the web

Saturday: Lecture and practice

  • Basics of python objects and structures (2 hours)

  • Lunch

  • Build your own project (2 hours)

    • A couple games
    • Play with the twitter API

Post event

  • Hack nights
  • Discussion groups

The results


  • 1 organizer (Ned Batchelder)
  • 700 members


  • 3 organizers
  • 1800 members
  • Monthly lecture-style events
  • hack nights
  • classes
  • more

Reflection & Sharing

  • Volunteers are awesome

  • Why’d you sign up? “Women, judgement-free, free”

  • Staff wrap-up. Lesson’s learned:

    • More coding practice
    • simplified projects

How they share the work

  • Curriculem on wiki

  • Share their code:

    • codingbat.com

Scaling out: impact beyond Boston

How they influenced the world

  • Montreal Python: Women & friends workshop

  • Pystar: Workshops and material

    • PyStar Philly
  • PyLadies: women-friendly python user group(s)

  • Ladies learning code: women-oriented tech programming in Toronto

  • 7 of the 50 poster sessions came out of women who got involved because of these groups

Next steps

  • Continuing innovation of organization
  • Get people in via workshops, user groups, PSF memberships,
  • project nights


  • Lessons from Railsbridge:
from sf.ruby
import railsbridge