Ada Lovelace Day – Donna Benjamin

Ada Lovelace Day has come around again, and although Donna Benjamin was profiled in brief for last year’s post, this year I’d like to dedicate several more virtual column-inches to covering her achievements and notability as an inspirational woman of technology.

Service as a mentor, guide and trusted friend in producing open source events

For many years, Donna was instrumental in making the Software Freedom Day celebrations in Melbourne happen. Countless hours of unpaid time were devoted to organising, herding, negotiating, liaising, encouraging and motivating the diverse group of open source enthusiasts around Melbourne and Victoria to come together. This culminated in 2010 in Melbourne’s Software Freedom Day event being recognised as one of the best in the world. While a strong leader in her own right, Donna went one step further. Through actively mentoring others, she has nurtured nascent talent in the community, ensuring that similar events in the future are more sustainable, and draw from an emerging field of willing and capable minds.

This is no more apparent than in her role as ‘ghost’ to the current organising team (Disclaimer: of which I’m a member). Her insight, knowledge, reflections and practical demeanour, built from the success that was 2008 have put the team on a very strong footing indeed to be able to deliver January’s event. Her passion, energy and dedication are also echoed in Drupal Downunder coming to Melbourne in 2012.

Donna is also a respected speaker and conference presenter, spreading her passion for open source, open knowledge, open education and open culture.

Digitise the Dawn

Donna’s trumpeting achievement in the last year or so however lies in her successful spearheading of the Digitise the Dawn campaign. In a matter of weeks, Donna’s efforts had raised over $AUD8000 – enough to have the archives of Louisa Lawson’s ‘The Dawn’ newspaper digitised in Trove and made available for researchers – a significant step for women everywhere.


It is Donna’s drive, passion, enthusiasm, willingness to give of herself and ability to genuinely nurture others that make me respect and admire her so much. Thank you, Donna.



Netregistry nurses make me sick

CeBIT is a 3-day conference which focuses on business technology and IT solutions, and is held every year in Australia. Companies exhibit at CeBIT, hoping to build brand awareness and promote their service offerings. This year, Australian domain name registration and web hosting company Netregistry tried a slightly different marketing tactic – and it’s one that’s making me sick.

Using a ‘medical’ theme to promote their web site health check service, Netregistry dressed female staff in quasi-nurse uniforms, and had them ask CeBIT attendees about the health of their websites. According to this article by ZDNet, Netregistry CEO Larry Bloch (@larrybloch on Twitter) has stated that

“There would have been female doctors if any of our sales people were female — but they’re not”

This is appalling on three levels;

Representation of women in ICT: Instead of having female consultants and sales staff with (presumably) the technical and interpersonal skills to analyse the health of a client’s website, instead models (employed for their looks, not for their intellectual capital) are used engage the (predominantly male) attendees of CeBIT.

Representation of the nursing profession: The nursing profession has worked long and hard to build an image of nurses built on trust, integrity and professional deportment. Placing women in nurses’ uniforms to sell website ‘health checks’ detracts not only from the image of women, but also from the image of nurses and the nursing profession.

Lack of female representation in sales roles: The question everyone is forgetting to ask is why there are no female sales staff at Netregistry? Oh woops, my bad – as a female why would I want to work for an organisation that so obviously doesn’t see women as professional and intelligent, but as eye candy to sell a service. Recruit me now.

No wonder I moved away from Netregistry for my web hosting some time ago. They were appalling then and things it seems haven’t changed.

If you’re as angry as I am about this, send @larrybloch or @Netregistry a Tweet.

Disclaimer: I wasn’t at CeBIT, I didn’t see the ‘nurses’ in question. But I didn’t have to…