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WiT: Teaching for free

Illustration for article titled WiT: Teaching for free

I do a lot of work in the Women in Tech movement. Well, to be fair, I did a lot of work in WiT. I’ve cut way, way back in the past year. A conversation on Twitter cut to the heart of why:

It’s never paid.

It didn’t really bug me too much until the last event. We were understaffed and overbooked. I ended up with 40 students when I’d been very clear that my limit was generally 25. I was there for nearly 12 hours, since it took so long for the organizers to get their shit together. And, to top it off, they didn’t even pay for my fucking parking.


They did have stickers and twee decorations and a super fancy lunch and cupcakes that I know cost at least $5 a pop. I, however, was not paid. It was very clear that my role was as a volunteer.

If I brought the same material to a conference, I’d be paid at least $1k, and that’s at a non-profit. For-profit, my travel would be covered, at a minimum.


So, back to the twitter conversation: The organizers of one group I’ve worked with started brain storming about what they could do. Some had been compensating teachers, but not openly, while others hadn’t realized this was something they should do until it came up. And, of course, there were people jumping in acting like wanting to be paid somehow made us less ‘pure’ or something. Like, we should just teach for the good feels.

One point was that we were literally stealing from the mouths of poor, downtrodden women who were just trying to get a step up in life. My classes, and I’ve taught many, were almost always mostly made up of women with careers. I’ve had lawyers, sys admins, journalists, DBAs, data scientists, and women who coded, but in a different language. Classes were never more than 10% ‘struggling’ women.


Maybe that’s the biggest part of it: The women in these classes aren’t being treated by the community as serious students. They’re being treated as wretched damsels in need of rescuing.

Sorry for the rant. Needed to get it out of my system so I could move on with my day.

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