7 min

What I learnt in the first year of our women Slack channel

Picture of a woman in the middle of a paper.
Written by
Mor Rubinstein
Published on
March 8, 2017

A year ago I decided to do something small. Inspired by the women that we met in OGP 2015 Summit in Mexico. @faeriedevilish and I decided after a quick telegram chat, to do this:

The next day I took 2 minutes of my time to open a free version of Slack. I called it FOpenness, a short cut to female openness. After that, Mariel and I invited women we know who work in our space to join it. These women invited their friends, and friends of friends. Now, a year and two months after its conception, this channel, has 225 members and the group’s blog is now known as

Open Heroines


Having a safe space for women to talk, listen, create and organise has had an effect on my life. It made me realise that I am not alone, that I am not imagining injustices or insensitivities. It has helped in shaping my feminism and taught me so much.

So as my contribution to this International Women’s day, I decided to share my learnings from this inspiring group of women with you.

Spring — The first time I stood up and called out a #manel.

One of the first topics that came up in our channel, and unfortunately still comes up, is the phenomenon of #manels (aka — all male panels).

Hera Hussain just wrote a whole post about manels in #IACC17 a couple of months ago. I remember another Anti-Corruption Summit where this happened — the Anti Corruption summit in London in May 2016.

I attended the summit’s civil society day and was lucky to have had many open heroines around me. We were happy to see that the panels of that event tried to be diverse until we encountered one that was not.

Until Open Heroines, I usually did nothing about a #manel when I saw one. Even though I do it a lot, it takes a lot of emotional strength to call out the elephant in the room. When it comes to panels, I felt that calling it out would just aggravate the men on the stage and that people will not listen to me after that. Even worse, they will see me as a troublemaker, not as someone who tries to highlight change.

In this case, I had women next to me who felt just like me, who were upset to see that the only woman on the panel dropped out due to an important matter and now we are stuck in a #manel. I also knew that the moderator, Martin Tisné himself is anti manels:

So for the first time, I felt confident enough to take the microphone, state that we are in a manel and need to think about it.

Ever since then, I call a manel every time I see one. Sometimes, what is obvious for some is not obvious to others, and we need to have an honest discussion about things as they happen, not only after.

It’s good seeing Martin calling out panels himself (and being open to discussion around this topic). My hope is that other men will know the word ‘Manel’ and will discuss about it as well.

Summer — When I was weak and I had someone to tell me that I am not crazy

Not a lot people know this about me, but I had an ectopic pregnancy in the summer of 2016 (and I guess now it’s on the internet so that everyone will know…). There are a lot of failed pregnancies in the world — 1 out of 4 pregnancies will end up in a miscarriage, 1 out of 1o is ectopic. We don’t speak about these pregnancies enough. Just as an example- how many of your female friends told you about their miscarriages? Do you hear 1 out of 4 women speak about their failed pregnancies?

Telling the world about it is a tough thing to do. Some people think it is too personal to share and consider it to be too personal to read or listen to. I think that if someone wants to share their story, they should tell it. If my story will help others to learn about Ectopic pregnancies and how to detect one, even one woman, then writing about it worth it.

My ectopic pregnancy was just a case of bad luck — I don’t smoke, I don’t have scar tissues, and I do not use the coil, so I don’t tick any of the causes for an ectopic. I had what you call “a fluke”. To top off my bad luck, when I found out I was pregnant before it was known as ectopic, I was not happy with joy, rather I was scared. Scared about my career and my spare time that is going to disappear. I was mainly scared of my thoughts. In most Hollywood movies, women are usually happy about their pregnancies and at the end there is a joy. In my movie of summer of 2016, I only had fear.

So I outreached to @rightsduff on slack and she was amazing. Kat and I only met in person twice, but she took time from her busy day for a long phone call with me on the other side of the ocean (She was in DC while I was in my bed in Oxford). She told me why I should not feel bad about my reaction and why is it normal and happens to others as well (as the movie “unexpected” shows this well). She told me about her miscarriage and how it affected her. Most importantly, she didn’t tell me that everything is going to be fine but rather she was realistic. She shared with me her thoughts, that though kids do affect a woman’s career, i determine what will happen. She gave me hope not only because of how she helped me that day but because she is an example of someone who works in this field and is a mother. She has shown me that it is possible to do the two things. Sometimes, all you need from someone is that silver lining and Kat was that. Thank you Kat!

Autumn — We got a seat at the table, but annonymous voicese are still there

A sharp jump back into the world of data. One of Open Heroines biggest achievement this year was to have a session at the two leading open data events of 2016 — IODC16 and the @opengovpart summit. I do believe that without the noise the group made, we wouldn’t have those sessions and that visibility.

In March 2016 I wrote a post calling for gender balance at IODC. Without the group support (which includes lots of social media sharing), Less people would have read it. We also kept publishing blogs about why one woman is not enough, and why gender balance is really important.

Our voice was heard. Some of our male colleagues did try to help us get a spot and did advocate for better representation for women. We also know that in the case of the IODC, they also had to deal with a government that did not fully understand the need for such a session, that didnt understand the importance of this. So we had to make sacrifices. We had to decrease the number of sessions and run it over lunch. Who wants to listen to a panel when there is finger food outside? We didnt give up. We had a wonderful session and a big shout out to the wonderful Kristen Robinsonfor organising it!

In OGP16, we decided to take a different approach. Instead of the usual panel, we collected women’s stories from the space and read them. These prompted other women to share their thoughts as well in the session. We call this method the Open Gender Monologues, and we got excellent feedback from it. We hope we can do it again on our blog and in other conferences.

These sessions probably would not have happened had we not made a noise. I am proud to have a community that takes our writing seriously and help us act on it. So seriously in fact, that I was even part of the authors of the IODC roadmap report.

Taking gender issues seriously.

We have a long way to go, but it’s still good to see this making progress.

Winter — This is not really an epilog, we are just starting…

I know, this is very personal (well, it is about me), this is a very niche topic (well it is about #opendata AND women), but its still necessary to share these learnings and these emotions. It is even more important when the most powerful nation in the world is led by a man who is speaking and acting against women. It is important because I expect from other world leaders who are women to scold him publicly, not to hold his hand.

However, it is also hard to share this. I know for myself that before I write, I always have the feeling that I will be judged or even worse, that people will feel sorry for me. Every time I just have to stop thinking about it and just hit the publish button. For lots of other women, it is difficult to go over this stumbling block. The problem is that if you are not somewhere on the internet, you do not exist, and so the cycle continue.

Our community of women is a place to share ideas, to gain strength, to speak up, even on the issues that we usually don’t talk about. Our work here has just begun.

Maya Angelou once wrote this phrase which resonates now more than ever:

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

Thank you, Open Heroines, with you, I rise.

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