Gender-inclusive making: Stratum 0

Stratum0 / Braunschweig (Germany)

Stratum 0 ( was created in 2011 as the very first hackerspace in Braunschweig, Germany. The idea for a hackerspace emerged from a mail on a mailing list of the informatics department of the Technical University Braunschweig. Inspired by this idea 30 people started to engage in a discussion and finally the hackerspace was realised by a group of twenty persons, who created a non-for-profit association. In order to keep its independence and ownership, the space is not a member of the CCC1 and completely finances itself.

The space is open to everyone, who sticks to the Code of Conduct and currently counts 110 members/entities. Stratum 0 uses membership fees – students get offered a lower price (€12 a month). For those who cannot afford to pay the fee, there is also the possibility to pay less, based on individual arrangements. The fee is necessary to have a say in the association, whereas the space can also be used without membership.

Most of the current members are informatics students and persons working in IT, as well as design students. The space is, however, open to be used by any interessee at any time, with no membership or fee required (with the exemption of some costs to cover materials, depending on their use). Stratum0 uses open software and really wants to convey a feeling of openness for everybody.

Once a week low-threshold meetings are organised. These kinds of meetings are organised for example as vegan cooking events or currently as ‘Malkränzchen’ (tea parties). They are organised as a get together, similar to having tea, but it also involves creative work on individual projects and respective exchange. These meetings are supposed to lower the entry threshold for potential interessees to get in touch with Stratum 0 for the first time.

All workshops and events organised by Stratum 0 are for free and open to anyone interested. In addition, some of their regular workshops – Coderdojos – specifically address children and teenagers aged between 3 to 16 years

Gender and other inequalities

About one fifth of the 110 members of Stratum 0 are women. Counting nonbinary and trans persons in, about ¼ of all its members are not (exclusively) male. Reducing this to active members, about a third of active members is female identified. Whilst this is far from a gender balance, Stratum 0 gets a lot of positive feedback for their high number of female participants, compared to other hacker and maker environments in Germany.

Stratum 0 and especially female members of Stratum0 have been working hard for the past 5-6 years to change the gender relations in the place. Not only did they actively reach out to women, but also worked on the space’s culture. Female members started to raise questions of inappropriate behaviour in the community. Whilst they were not taken seriously in the beginning or held responsible individually for responding to this inappropriate behaviour, the culture now has changed profoundly. Inappropriate behaviour, such as writing an offensive message, can be communicated to the board of the association and members can be banned from the space as a consequence. In addition to the code of conduct, Stratum 0 also has 2 confidence persons of trust assigned, who can be approached instead of the board.

The composition of the current board members is diverse. However, this process of establishing an acceptance for diversity over the last years did not go frictionless as some former members were opposing the diversity and queerness of the place and leaving Stratum 0.

Stratum 0 also criticised CCC back in 2015 – while jointly organising a community event – for its lacking code of conduct and for being reluctant to introduce one. As a consequence of this clash, the female members of Stratum 0 stopped working on the event until a code of conduct for this specific event was introduced. Since 2015 CCC has changed a lot, has its code of conduct and further measures implemented.

Members of Stratum 0 are currently discussing to create a women-only-talk, but find it difficult to reach consensus on strictly excluding certain parts of the population, such as male-read nonbinary persons, as they face discrimination as well. According to the interviewee, there are studies providing evidence that women can behave differently in women-only-safe-spaces, where they can also show vulnerability. Thus, Stratum 0 has not yet a clear position on how to deal with this dilemma.

Best practices and challenges

From Stratum 0 we can learn that, once a certain number of members with diverse identities is reached, it reproduces itself and rules out behaviour that does not support its diversity.

While Stratum 0 is not a female-only space, the interviewee also considers exclusively female spaces important for female makers to not feel the burden to be the only female representative and role model to do all the emotional work. Instead, all-female spaces offer the possibility to inspire each other and simply work on one’s projects and be active.

“It is inspiring to see how many talented women do impressive projects and are active in the making field.”