Maureen McElaney

Maureen McElaney

Saturday, October 21, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., on the Expo Floor at the Champlain Valley Expo, Essex Junction, VT

Women in STEM fields are accustomed to being in the minority. According to the National Center for Women in Information Technology, in 2015 women accounted for nearly 60 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients — but just 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences. The disparity is similar in engineering. According to a 2016 article in MIT News, while 20 percent of undergrad engineering degrees go to women, just 13 percent of professional engineers are female.

To help women in tech feel a little less lonely, we’ve created the Vermont Tech Jam’s first-ever “Feminist Hackerspace.” It’ll be open all day on Saturday, October 21, at the back of the expo floor. Women and nonbinary individuals of all ages are welcome to stop by and connect with other women in tech — and maybe work on a few coding projects. Volunteers from Vermont Women in Data Science and Machine Learning, and the local chapters of the Society of Women Engineers and Girl Develop It, will also be promoting other networking opportunities.

Rachael Arnold

Rachael Arnold

All of these groups are actively seeking members. The Burlington Chapter of Girl Develop It is also seeking new leadership. Founder and Tech Jam Ambassador Award Finalist Maureen McElaney will be stepping down at the end of the year, as will her co-leader, Rachael Arnold. The group, established in 2013, has held more than 100 classes and events, and boasts more than 1,100 members. “After five years, we want to hand the operational reins to someone else,” McElaney says. And if they don’t find successors, “Girl Develop It Burlington will be shutting its doors at the end of the year.” Anyone ready to keep them open?