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GETconf promotes gender equity and accessibility in tech

Stefanie Monge is impressed by the outpouring of support from everyone who wants to make tech a more equitable field. Monge is vice chair of the Gender Equity in Tech Conference (or GETconf, for short), a one-day conference amplifying and celebrating the voices of women and gender-expansive workers in tech.

“Right now we are about 80 percent full, so that’s super exciting,” Monge said. “We’re almost at capacity. But we do still have some tickets available, and we do have student tickets and also scholarship passes.”

GETconf will be held Friday, April 26, at the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology on Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus. The conference features a schedule of 15 industry-leading women and gender-expansive speakers. Topics covered range from typical tech-conference fare like design thinking, UI/UX, and artificial intelligence, to more specialized subject matter, such as designing against domestic violence, learning from bipolar disorder, and addressing cultural bias in AI.

“The perspectives that are being shared, because they are women, because they are people from underrepresented groups who have been working in tech—some of them just for a few years, and some for a couple decades at this point—they’re going to bring a slightly different approach,” Monge said.

GETconf came about when Monge and some friends from a local code school noticed a disturbing trend. They weren’t seeing the wide array of talented women they knew being given the spotlight at conferences.

“We really felt like there were a lot of women in the tech community who we knew and worked with who had really great expertise to share, but we felt like, as we were going to meetups and other conferences in Omaha, we felt like we weren’t really seeing them onstage,” Monge said. 

Partnering with Mystery Code Society

GETconf organizers partnered with Mystery Code Society, a 501(c)3 in Omaha that provides coding workshops for girls in fifth through twelfth grade, to plan the conference, which is aimed at a co-ed audience.

The nonprofit and business community quickly rallied around GETConf. Sponsors include Verizon Media, Hudl, Unabridged Software, Flywheel, Tech Omaha, Team Software, Werner Enterprises, Buildertrend, Firespring, YMCA, Conductix Wampfler, 8th Light, You Go Girl, Maebean, and Union Pacific.

Monge said conference organizers didn’t just want to focus on diversity or inclusion, but on equity. The difference can be summed up in an analogy on the conference website: diversity is inviting various people to the table. Inclusion is offering them a meal. Equity is everything done to accommodate each guest, acknowledging that different guests have different needs.

“Taking an approach that was more around equity means that we’re just centering these people from underrepresented groups and what they know and helping everybody in the community to learn from them,” Monge says.

Accessibility is Key

A major component of equity is accessibility, and GETconf has been intentional about making the conference as accessible as possible.

“It’s all about lowering barriers to entry in any way possible,” Monge said.

To that end, GETConf offers free child care for attendees, ASL interpreters, lactation rooms and quiet rooms. The building is accessible, with zero-step entry and elevators to workshops, and adjacent to the Metro bus line. Bus passes are available on request.

Conference tickets are $99 and include lunch, snacks, intentional networking opportunities, and a peer-mentoring program. Scholarships are available through the GETConf website. Attendees will also have the chance to tour MCC’s advanced prototyping lab and get involved with the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology.

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