R-Ladies Global and R-Ladies Chicago Reception at Posit Conf

Photo captured at the conclusion of the Question and Answer session of the reception. Alt text: R-Ladies community members gathered in a room of the Hyatt in Chicago, with rows of individuals standing, kneeling, and sitting.


On Wednesday, September 20, 2023 R-Ladies Global and R-Ladies Chicago jointly hosted a reception at Posit Conf in Chicago, Illinois. Here, we summarize the question and answer portion of the meet-up.


Per tradition, at the conclusion of Posit Conf R-Ladies Global and R-Ladies Chicago (the local R-Ladies chapter) jointly hosted a reception at the conference hotel in Chicago, Illinois. In attendance were all members of the R-Ladies leadership team, several R-Ladies global team members, chapter organizers from around the world, regular participants, and first time R-Ladies meet-up attendees. The in-person, unrecorded event was open to both conference attendees and local chapter members, and adhered to R-Ladies Chicago chapter policies and guidelines.

The reception began with announcements from the leadership team followed by a question and answer panel discussion with questions submitted via slido. The panel included Athanasia Mowinckel, Yanina Bellini Saibene, and Riva Quiroga from the leadership team as well as R-Ladies chapter organizers María Nanton (R-Ladies Buenos Aires), Stephanie Orellana (R-Ladies Santiago) and Angela Li (R-Ladies Chicago). Thank you to all of our panelists for sharing their insights and experiences.

The question and answers below are not presented as they were discussed chronologically, but more thematically in terms of discussion versus operational/procedural questions.

Discussion questions

What are the main benefits of R-Ladies?

Angela: Improving my data science skills in a community that was really supportive, which then quickly cascaded into talking to people in different sectors doing different things that I didn’t yet know. Angela and Ola are stepping down as R-Ladies Chicago organizers, and it would be amazing to give those benefits to someone else to make connections and build their careers.

Maria: A space where you can grow in a supportive environment. Professionally, I wouldn’t have the job that I have right now without R-Ladies. It has been a hugely positive experience, and it has been amazing to give back as an organizer.

Stephanie: R-Ladies changed my life. I am a super introvert and felt comfortable here; I have learned a lot and I made really good friends. I also like that it is an international community. I didn’t have international friends before this and now I am friends with other Spanish speaking R-Ladies and they ask me to share my knowledge with them.

Mo: It is changing individual lives, but it is also changing an entire community. We are at tech conference and there are so many women here - this of course has to do with the R community that we are in and this R community is influenced by R-Ladies is breaking stereotypes and making spaces for all of us. That has been a huge success for us, as interest for R-Ladies chapters quickly developed and became popular very fast. The organization has made space for all of us in data science fields. It benefits us and the entire community. There are amazing initiatives going on as well. By establishing the idea of creating more diversity in gender representation in our community (here: the larger R-community), other aspects of diversity have become more highlighted also. The efforts on translation of content in even R itself is one of these. R-Ladies in Latin American is making a huge impact on a larger scale and all the personal stories are fantastic to listen to.

Will R-Ladies ever re-brand to a name that is more inclusive to R users of marginalized genders?

Yani: Yes, it is under consideration. As of now our plan is to open a discussion within the R-Ladies community where members can comment anonymously or not, and individuals from the community outside the leadership/global team can join the discussion. We hope this allows people to feel free to openly share their opinion. We have written rules and guidelines to help guide the discussion. The results of that discussion will help guide the decision of the leadership team, and then it will be announced to the broader community. The idea is to have the current and future potential members of R-Ladies have a voice heard in this decision.

Any thoughts about age diversity and creating more inclusive accessible meetups?

Mo: We provide our organizers a lot of freedom to set up meet-ups in a way that make them accessible. When Oslo started, we had good age diversity, from students, professionals and retiring professors, and it was nice to see everyone connecting. However, it can be hard reaching other people, and there are things we can think about to make it more inclusive. Things like having your space easily accessible: in Oslo we follow Carpentries rules about where the talks are, for example it should be wheelchair accessible, and near public transportation, not too late in the evening so they are not falling asleep and not too early to account for children. Allowing kids is another option chapter organizers can decide for their communities, and they have the freedom to decide how and what you think is best. If anyone has tips or ideas the group is open to suggestions. We have the R-Ladies guide and there are general recommendations; please reach out to us with new ideas so we can share with the global community.

What do we think about the idea of having a R-Ladies conference day? 👀😊

Mo: That is the dream! We are not there yet, and the leadership needs to be more established, but it is definitely something to consider.

Operational/procedural questions

What are chapter organizers finding helpful as we go back in person?

María: Online meetings have been helpful to reach other people that we haven’t previously been able to and in other parts of Latin America; we plan to keep running online meet ups in a 50/50 way. I am glad to be back in person also to meet people and connect in a different way.

Stephanie: I have had similar experience; we have people from all different universities and working in different sectors attending our events. Because it is very difficult to move around city after work, we had talked about virtual even before the pandemic, because we wanted to reach a wider audience. Now most of our events are virtual to be more inclusive and make it easier for people to attend events.

Angela: Online events allow for the possibility of collaborations with other chapters that didn’t exist before. Additionally, before there were a lot of details in terms of having to find space, get pizza, and open doors, now with Zoom this is less so the case now and it makes things easier on the organizers and those people that are coming to speak.

What is the process of starting a chapter?

Riva: Send an email to chapters@rladies.org. A member of the Onboarding Team will welcome you and explain process. Chapters are permitted for cities, but not for a university or company. If you wish to have a thematic meet-up, you could approach a chapter like R-Ladies Remote and they can help create thematic meet-ups.

How would I step up and take over an inactive local chapter?

Riva: Same process; email chapters@rladies.org, and they would be happy to begin the process to reactivate your chapter.

If I don’t have a local chapter, is there a way to join a “virtual” chapter? Or are there chapters that regularly meet online?

Riva: The R-Ladies Remote chapter serves this purpose. Additionally, many chapters continue to have virtual events and many welcome participants outside of their geographic location; they are often announced in the events channel of the Community Slack channel or on Meet-up.

Have you considered expanding to include Python?

Riva: Stephanie and I are also PyLadies organizers, and we are now planning to host joint R-Ladies and PyLadies events together in Valparaíso. Cosima Meyer (Cologne organiser, Germany) also organizes joint events in Germany, and it is a great way to expand the way you are reaching people.

Does R-Ladies raise funding for events?

Yani: R-Ladies receives funding from institutional and individual donors. As a Top Level project for R Consortium, R Consortium is our main sponsor for global administration; these funds mostly goes to Meetup fees. For R-Ladies chapters there is a different process - chapters can apply for R Consortium grants. If you do not want to manage money you can ask for non-monetary donations, like a venue, pizza, drinks, speaker travel expenses, child care services, etc. More recently some chapters have use Open Collective to organize their funding.

Is there a LinkedIn group for R-Ladies Global?

Mo: Yes but it is not active. We are establishing a social media team and creating a social media strategy to better reach community members.

Should local chapters create a Mastodon account?

Mo: Social media strategy at the chapter level is up to chapter organizers; different chapters have different reasons for using particular platforms.

Is the Global team looking for any more volunteers?

Mo: We are currently onboarding new members of the team after a recent call for volunteers. We plan to put out another call for volunteers in the coming year, so keep an eye on our social media and website.

Questions that we ran out of time to answer

How have you been successful in getting people to attend meetups?

Here are some ideas on organizing events from our guide: https://guide.rladies.org/organization/events/general/.

For the funding from RConsortium for local events, what is a typical grant amount?

It starts with 150 US$, but it can be increase depending on your proposal. More info in our guide: https://guide.rladies.org/organization/intro/finance/#expenses-reimbursed-by-the-global-organization and in the R Consortium page: https://www.r-consortium.org/all-projects/r-user-group-support-program.

What do we say to men who want to join an R-Ladies chapter?

Please see the guide for the full policy, which provides recommendations but also offers flexibility for individual chapters to maintain their own policies: https://guide.rladies.org/about/mission/. You can also refer them to guidance on helping R-Ladies as an ally https://guide.rladies.org/ally/.