The Drupal Community allows developers and users to join forces to share and grow their Drupal skills during a three-times-a-year, weeklong conference. Fortunately, DrupalCon also is growing the presence of women at these meetups—not only as attendees but as leaders.

DrupalCon New Orleans will do what every DrupalCon does: showcase improvements to the Drupal platform in a collaborative, social atmosphere. Drupal is made stronger this way, as those who develop, use and support the Drupal platform converge in one location to do what the Drupal community does best: share openly and creatively. As the Drupal Association, which organizes each DrupalCon, says, attendees “come for the software, stay for the community.” 

At least 21 percent of the more than 3,000 attendees expected to attend DrupalCon in May identify as women and 19 percent of speakers are female—a slight uptick from past conferences, according to Drupal Association Events Manager Rachel Friesen. 

Two of the women who’ll be at DrupalCon are from NEWMEDIA—thanks to the creation of the Project Managers track, a first for a North American DrupalCon. Associate Project Manager Naomi Wells is looking forward to learning more about Drupal-focused project management. 

“You can learn project management from so many angles,” says Wells, “but this is Drupal specific, and that’s what’s exciting to me. This is the industry I’m in.”

Wells and Senior Project Manager Rachel Rosenblum will join Karyn Cassio, a Drupal software and DevOps engineer for the University of Colorado, Boulder, who regularly attends DrupalCon and is co-leading a session about diversity and inclusion at the upcoming conference. 

“Of course, I think there needs to be more women at these, but most tech conferences have female attendance numbers at around 7 percent,” says Cassio, “so our DrupalCon numbers are looking pretty good.” 

DrupalCon welcomes its female participants with a Women in Drupal event early in the conference that’s open to women, trans individuals, anyone who identifies outside of the “gender binary,” and allies. The social hour provides connections so attendees need not wander the conference halls lonely. “Our goal is to foster inclusivity and embrace the involvement of individuals across the gender spectrum,” says the DrupalCon website. 

Cassio looks forward to connecting with other women at DrupalCon—in part because there are so few female Drupal engineers in Colorado—but she’d like to see more women working in Drupal and in tech industries across the board.

“Women are good at this. We often think about a problem differently. And because it’s so male-dominated, women and our work are sometimes misunderstood,” says Cassio.

That’s where DrupalCon comes in. Fostering community and building lifelong connections is the DrupalCon mission for all those who attend. 

And NEWMEDIA supports that mission. 

We’ve been designing and developing websites for more than 20 years, growing to include a 47-person workforce that’s nearly equally male and female. 

“It comes down to the individual,” says NEWMEDIA Chief Technology Officer Kevin Bridges. “We hire people who want to work hard, are motivated and want to learn, then we help them grow to do that. A lot of our members grow beyond the jobs they were hired to do.” 

Bridges, a Drupal contributor since 2004, has been involved in the greater development community for more than 20 years—at Acquia and Bonnier Corp.—before joining NEWMEDIA three years ago. He helped craft DrupalCon content for years as a DevOps or coder track chair (these are the folks who make sure DrupalCon sessions are bleeding edge and engaging); he helped bring DrupalCon to Denver in 2012.

Bridges and NEWMEDIA know the industry is booming: At NEWMEDIA, we have more than a dozen jobs open, including for website developers, designers, site builders and engineers.  

There’s no end in sight to the tech boom in Denver or elsewhere in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that computer and information technology jobs will grow by an additional 1.4 million positions from 2014 to 2024—due in part to cloud computing, big data storage and demand for mobile computing. Demand will be greatest for software developers, support technicians and systems analysts—jobs accompanied by decent wages. 

Already, filling our tech positions—from the big companies to small shops—is big news around the country. I know from my own perch at NEWMEDIA that C-level executives talk about how to attract the highly talented and skilled employees needed to get our burgeoning work done. I’ve received a handful of queries from newspaper reporters in the past month—all seeking input for a “tech hiring practices” story. 

With the tech industry booming and more jobs coming down the pipeline, we need to beseech more women to enter the computing and software development ranks. That means encouraging middle and high school girls to take computer classes. Get that Drupal drive started young. 

“We need to teach our kids, and especially our girls, that in computing, you’re learning something new every day,” says Cassio. “It’s figuring out the best way, the most efficient way, to do something … I love that I’ll never stop growing; that to me is super exciting.” 

At NEWMEDIA, colleagues have equal participation in professional and personal growth opportunities. Individuals have initiated well-attended, after-work JavaScript tutorials, and we attend tech-oriented meetups such as those hosted by SheSays Denver. Several of us non-developer types are learning how to use Drupal. It harkens back to that NEWMEDIA drive to learn, innovate and grow: Staff are encouraged to stretch beyond our abilities into new terrain. 

“For some people, the non-stop learning is the hook,” Bridges says. “You’re never a total expert in your field. If anyone says ‘I know it all,’ they’re kidding themselves.” 

Look for continued talk about how the Drupal Community may become more inclusive—encouraging more minorities and women to enter the Drupal-sphere—during Cassio’s session and throughout DrupalCon when it convenes May 9. 

“Being an ally will make all of us better developers,” says Cassio. “Because we learn code from one another, but we also learn more about ourselves—we stretch ourselves—when we work side by side with those we think are different.” 

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