When programmers Ola Sendecka and Ola Sitarska regularly found themselves to be the only women at tech conferences, hackathons, and meet-ups, they decided to actually do something about it.
That's how Django Girls was born in 2014. "This is an international community of people who work together to make the tech industry, in particular the Python and Django worlds, more inclusive and welcoming," explains Sendecka, a developer at Potato London.
"Our frustration at being the only women in the room, and of needing to prove to people that we have right to be at a tech event or simply being treated as competent professionals, made us realise that nothing will change if we remained idle."
Sitarska and Sendecka (l to r, above), who were colleagues in Potato at the time (Sitarska has since moved on to another job), started small with a workshop in Berlin during the EuroPython conference.
"We had no plans to create a worldwide movement at the time," says Sendecka, who also has her own YouTube channel, Coding Is For Girls . "We first looked for inspiration from people in other communities who were already doing amazing things. We learned what had been successful for workshops like Django Carrots and Rails Girls, and built on top of that.
"Very quickly, we realised things wouldn't be as easy as we'd hoped. For example, as we wanted to focus on complete beginners, we struggled trying to find a tutorial that did not assume that you already knew how to program, so we ended up writing one from scratch."
As programmers, it was tempting for the two Olas to try to build everything correctly from the beginning, but instead they started small, making sure the basics were right. For instance, they used Google Forms as the sign-up process and the website was initially plain HTML and CSS, hosted on GitHub pages, with no automated processes.
Potato, a global partner of Django Girls, sponsored up to four hours a week during working hours for the pair to work on the project, but it soon became clear that they'd have to scale up to meet the demand.
"After the first workshop we were overwhelmed by the positive feedback we received," Sendecka says. "Loads of people approached us asking if we could do the same thing in their country or city. And obviously doing that in so many places was impossible for just two of us.
"However, we realised that there is a crowd of amazing people out there who would love to make a difference. We had a brainstorm with both coaches and participants of our first workshop and we started to put together things that made it possible to spread Django Girls virus: namely, an organisers' manual that explains step-by-step how to put together a tutorial, and another guide on how to coach it."
To say that Django Girls has been an incredible worldwide success is a massive understatement. Since the first workshop almost three years ago, more than 8,300 people have attended a workshop in 68 countries around the world.
"Django Girls grew so much that I still find it incredible," Sendecka says. "Hundreds of people stepped up and organised the workshop for people in their cities. People contribute to our tutorial, resources, and website on a daily basis. Colleagues at Potato pitched in to volunteer as coaches, and the company hosted two London events and sponsored catering.
"Everything we are building around Django Girls is open source, and it is amazing to see how fast things matured and became more polished."
She adds: "The best part of Django Girls for me is the community around it. The whole thing is driven by volunteers, and it attracts people who are generous and kind. Thanks to the movement, I had a chance to meet amazing people, who are doing incredible things and are a giant inspiration for me.
"I’m no longer the only woman in the room. I go to conferences and I see fellow Django Girls giving talks, organising events or Python meet-ups, and getting involved more and more. Our voice is finally being heard."