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The Story and Challenge of Rails Girls at Montevideo

Rails Girls has been empowering women since 2011 in many cities around the world. Each event has it particularity and experiences to share, experiences valued, to bring more people, increase the awareness of gender justice and change the face of IT with inclusivity and diversity.  This time, it was the opportunity for Montevideo!

My friends Tania Silva and Leticia Figueredo  and I  participated at Rails Girls in Porto Alegre and exchanged ideas with developers from Uruguay. This was when the magic began to happen... When we gathered together to talk about our ideas, we realised that an awesome opportunity was to host the event before RubyConf Uruguay, the regional conference about Ruby, so we could gather people from different places willing to help and attend.

Neo Company came on as sponsor, and, as such, helped spread the word along with RubyConf, and RubySur. In the end, we had almost 100 registrations. It was bittersweet news because of the space and dedication we wanted to give to the girls, we could only have 25 attendees. That said, we were thrilled about the reception.

We had coaches from different parts of South America, including Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. More than 50% of them were women, which emphasised the positive role model we want to give to the girls.

The first day of the event, we had lightning talks of girls sharing their experience working in IT, their motivations and challenges they face every day. It's always valuable to show female role models! Lucia Escanellas, developer from Neo, talked about demystifying IT. Veronica Rebagliatte, organizer of RubyConf, shared her passion of IT. Sibyle Gilcher, former programmer, talked about her career and the experience of starting programming with punch cards.

The day finished setting up the computers of girls to be ready to play with Ruby on the second day.

On the second day we started with an introduction of Ruby on Rails and then the girls formed groups to start working on building a web application. The attendees had different backgrounds: some of them were at high school, some were starting university or working in other areas.

There were some lessons learnt from past events, and we tried to apply them. For example, at the moment of registration, we asked about tech knowledge and background, so this helped to define the groups, the rhythm of work and coaches needed. The girls created applications with the help of coaches, each group had at least two coaches so they can pair coaching and supporting each other to work with the girls.

On the end of the second day, the girls gave presentations to show off their apps. There's nothing quite like seeing the happiness in the eyes of the girls sharing what they learnt and knowing that that they can do it. 

Our Challenges

We had the challenge of organising the event remotely, however, technology was our champion. Trello worked very good for manage the tasks of the organization, Google groups email list and Google hangouts did the work for keeping communication going between organizers.  Social networks and mailing lists of technology communities were useful for spreading news about the event.  At Rubyconf, Leticia and I gave a lightning talk about the experience of Rails Girls, so this could make attendees know what's happening in Montevideo and empower them to join us.

Moving forward, we would like to have more content for beginners. People also came with ideas like workshops for only Ruby or html. There were a few enthusiasts recommending other frameworks like Sinatra or Cuba.

With these learnings under our belt, I’m already looking forward to our next edition of Rails Girls!

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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