The workshop was a 3 hour strongly guided discussion centering around 4-6 person group discussion of short scenarios. There's a guide to running them here, although I personally would not have wanted to run one without attending one first!
I attended the workshop for at least three reasons --
First, I want to do better myself. I have put some effort into (and received a lot of encouragement for) making my lab an increasingly open and welcoming place. While I have heard concerns about being insufficiently critical and challenging of bad ideas in science (and I have personally experienced a few rather odd situations where obviously bad ideas weren't called out in my past labs), I don't see any inherent conflict between being welcoming and being intellectually critical - in fact, I rather suspect they are mutually supportive, especially for the more junior people.
But, doing better is surprisingly challenging; everyone needs a mentor, or at least guideposts. So when I heard about this workshop, I leapt at the chance to attend!
Second, I am interested in connecting these kinds of things to my day job in academia, where I am now a professor at UC Davis. UC Davis is the home of the somewhat notorious Jonathan Eisen, who is notorious for many reasons that include boycotting and calling out conferences that have low diversity. UC Davis also has an effort to increase diversity at the faculty level, and I think that this is an important effort. I'm hoping to be involved in this when I actually take up residence in Davis, and learning to be a male ally is one way to help. More, I think that Davis would be a natural home to some of these ally workshops, and so I attended the Ally Skills workshop to explore this.
And third, I was just curious! It's surprisingly tricky to confront and talk about sexism effectively, and I thought seeing how the the pros did it would a good way to start.
Interestingly, 2/3 of my lab attended the workshop, too - without me requesting it. I think they found it valuable, too.
The workshop itself
Valerie Aurora ran the workshop, and it's impossible to convey how good it was, but I'll try by picking out some choice quotes:
"You shouldn't expect praise or credit for behaving like a decent human being."
"Sometimes, you just need a flame war to happen." (paraphrase)
"LPT: Read Captain Awkward. And read the comments."
"It's not up to the victim whether you enforce your code of conduct."
"The physiological effects of alcohol are actually limited, and most effects of alcohol are socially and/or culturally mediated."
"Avoid rules lawyering. I don't now if you've ever worked with lawyers, but software engineers are almost as bad."
"One problem for male allies is the assumption that you are only talking to a woman because you are sexually interested in them."
"Trolls are good at calibrating their level of awfulness to something that you will feel guilty about moderating."
Read the blog post "Tone policing only goes one way.
Overall, a great experience and something I hope to help host more of at UC Davis.