All posts by Stephanie Zvan

Secular Women Work at Skepticon 11

New city. New venue. Same great community and pool of expertise.

Once again, Secular Women Work is running a track of programming led by female and genderqueer experts at Skepticon. We have an awesome schedule for you, and we hope you’ll check us out. Participate in our workshops, and come visit us at the Secular Woman table.

Do be warned, though. We’ve been known to recruit workshop presenters for future events in the middle of otherwise low-key, friendly discussions.

Meet Our Podcasters

For reasons that are almost certainly our fault, two of our advertisers for this summer’s conference didn’t receive our request for their ads. As a result, they didn’t make it into our program book. However, these are both podcasts that we’d be happy to recommend even if they hadn’t supported our work. Since we don’t want you to miss them, we’re advertising them here and on our social media.

Feeling nostalgic for a skepticism that doesn’t throw away social sciences as ideologically inconvenient? Brainstorm is a family of skeptical podcasts out of Canada.

Brainstorm logo: top-down drawing of brain with lightning sparking off it. Additional text: Woo free since 2013.


The Brainstorm podcast originated as a singular show produced with the intent to spread critical thinking, skepticism towards fringe ideas, acceptance of scientific consensus, and fact based information. Over the years it has grown into multiple shows covering a broad range of topics and a conference that brings speakers from across the spectrum of skeptical activism to Saskatchewan.

Meet the Feminist Coffee Hour. They’re a fun and informative podcast out of New York with a broad range of interests.

Feminist Coffee Hour text logo in purple on black with clip-art coffee cup.

Thanks to both Brainstorm and Feminist Coffee Hour for their support of Secular Women Work.

Our Skepticon Schedule

Just two days until Secular Women Work workshops at Skepticon. Come find us starting bright and early (enough) on Friday!

Wiki Editing 10 a.m.
History is only “real” if it’s documented, and Wikipedia has quickly come to be the central repository of that documentation. Bring your favorite wifi enabled device to help us record our history.
Monette Richards


Abortion MythBusting 11 a.m.
The push to limit reproductive rights depends on a lot of bad information. Come work through how to counter the most common of these with an accessible blend of understanding medicine and cause and effect.
Niki Massey


Combatting Impostor Syndrome 12 p.m.
The push to limit reproductive rights depends on a lot of bad information. Come work through how to counter the most common of these with an accessible blend of understanding medicine and cause and effect.
Stephanie Zvan


Succession Planning and Building Leadership Teams 1 p.m.
Organizations live or die on the strength of their teams. Come find out how to build a strong team that won’t fall apart when a key player leaves.
Stef McGraw


Finding Great Speakers 2 p.m.
Building a speaker list for an event or lecture series means balancing name recognition, offering something new, diversity, cost, and a host of other factors. Come talk about where we can find the
Chelsea Du Fresne


Funding Social Change 3 p.m.
This workshop will cover everything from how to create an effective plan for raising funds, making the ask and what to do when the money comes in.
Steph Montgomery


Activism Within Limits 4 p.m.
Not everyone can march at a protest. Not everyone can donate to support their causes. Whatever limitations you live with, however, there are still ways to help change the world. Come brainstorm.
Trinity Aodh


Building a Better Workshop

A few years ago, atheist and skeptic organizations started adding workshops to their conferences, and that was great. Workshops are hugely useful when you’re trying to become more effective, as the activist wings of both movements were, or when you’re trying to apply abstract principles to your life, as rank-and-file members of both movements were.

There were a few problems, however, because everything was new. While some presenters knew what to expect from workshops and had maybe even facilitated some before, most people didn’t. They had skills and knowledge to share, but no good idea of how to get that across in a workshop format. Nor were conference organizers clear on what they wanted or expected from their workshops.

As a result, we ended up with a few workshops and a whole lot of mini-lectures. Now, lectures can be great, and if your purpose in adding workshops to your event is to keep adding content after you’ve spent your speaker budget on the main stage, there’s no reason to stretch beyond the mini-lecture. But if your goal for workshops is to get people to change their behavior, to be more effective or to live their principles more fully, lectures can’t substitute for workshops.

Why? Because the interactive nature of workshops builds confidence at the same time it conveys information. You can walk away from a lecture thinking the information is interesting but you don’t have what it takes to apply it. You can’t do the same with a workshop where you’ve spent a good chunk of time applying your new knowledge. You know you can do it because you just did.

So now that I’ve convinced you, as an organizer or potential workshop facilitator, that you want to offer real workshops instead of mini-lectures, how do you go about it? Continue reading Building a Better Workshop

Secular Women Work at Skepticon!

Skepticon has just announced that it’s open for workshop proposals for this year.

Workshops are held on the Friday day of Skepticon from 10:00am until 4:00pm.

Click here to fill out our application form to be a workshopper at Skepticon 8!

That’s not all! We’re excited to announce that we will be partnering with the amazing women over at Secular Woman Work to bring you an entire track of workshops presented by even more awesome ladies! Want to be a part of their exclusive workshop track? Drop them a line at: to get in on what is sure to be our best workshop lineup yet.

Oh, hey. What’s that? Yes, Secular Women Work will be organizing a set of workshops at Skepticon. That means hands-on practical skill-building and group discussions sharing solutions to common activist problems–all brought to you by experienced activists who are women or genderqueer. There’s a lot of experience and skill in this movement, and we want to celebrate it by putting it to work making us all better activists.

Who will you see presenting in the Secular Women Work track at Skepticon? What topics will be covered? Frankly, we don’t know yet. We don’t know who will be there. We don’t know what their strengths are. What we do know is that there is never any shortage of talent at Skepticon, nor any shortage of generosity. We pledge to find you skilled activists who will deliver well-structured workshops for you to learn from.

(If you happen to be one of those activists with an idea for a topic, and you’ll be at Skepticon on Friday, please use the Secular Women Work email above to let us know. Even if you’ve never put together a workshop before, please contact us. We helped more than one presenter at our conference structure their workshop, and they all went well.)

Why should you trust us to find you good workshops? Here’s what people had to say about our conference last month. Continue reading Secular Women Work at Skepticon!

Speaker Feature: Desiree Schell

Come August, the conference will feature a full slate of women and genderqueer activists. This week, we’re going to feature three such activists: Mandisa Thomas, Lauren Lane, and Desiree Schell. All three are spectacular and amazing, so we hope you enjoy them!

Desiree Schell is a union organizer who is passionate about effective activism. Here, she tells us how she ended up an activist, why measuring our results is so important, and what topics she’d like to see activists tackle.

Secular Women Work at FtBCon(science)

The co-chairs of the Secular Women Work conference got together today for FreethoughtBlogs online conference to talk about the impetus behind the conference and what we have planned. Check it out!


The Kickstarter Is Live!

Green badge with text "funded by Kickstarter".Putting together a good conference gets expensive. Pulling together people who can educate as well as inform even more so.

This conference is a project of Minnesota Atheists; Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists; and Secular Woman. None of us have the budgets of organizations who regularly put on this kind of conference (Center for Inquiry, Secular Student Alliance). That means we need to have a good idea of how many people are interested in this conference–and how many people are willing to support it monetarily–before we spend that money. Kickstarter lets us do that.

To the best of our knowledge, no one has Kickstarted a conference in the secular movement. No one has sold the tickets for their conference in such a compressed timeframe. We’re stepping out into the unknown and taking a risk. We’re confident that the support we need to run this conference exists, though.

Go check out the Kickstarter. Get your ticket before they’re all gone. (They’re not refundable, but they are transferable, and we’ll work to help you find someone to take your ticket if it turns out you can’t attend.) Get your t-shirt and/or your SurlyRamics necklace. Get your sticker. Advertise with us. Spring for a special dinner. Or just kick something in to help us make this conference everything it can be.

If you can’t do any of that, make sure the conference and Kickstarter are seen by the people who would want to come, the activists who want to get even better at what they do. This is how we’ll make this conference happen.

Introducing Secular Women Work

We are proud to introduce the Secular Women Work conference, a conference by and for activists. Do you want to build strong non-religious communities? Do you want to change our laws and our culture to be more accepting and accommodating of non-believers? Join us in Minneapolis in August 2015.

We live in a society in which unpaid work disproportionately falls to women. Unfortunately, this means that volunteer work, including activist work, is too often undervalued. We’re here to change that.

The Secular Women Work conference is a celebration of the work of female activists who create and run projects and communities in the secular movement. And there is no better way to honor their work than by using their expertise to help us all become better activists.

At Secular Women Work, you will find workshops: both hands-on exercises to develop your skills and facilitated group discussions where you can share challenges and solutions with other activists. You will find panels on specialist topics, with panelists who can help you broaden the horizons of your activism. And when you’re ready for a rest, you’ll find speakers who will entertain and inspire you with stories and lessons from their own work. In between it all, you’ll find a conference full of other activists who want to make a difference in the world.

All workshop leaders, all panelists, and all speakers will be experienced female or genderqueer activists with demonstrated accomplishments and skills to share. We are excited to announce that Lauren Lane, co-founder of Skepticon; Mandisa Thomas, president and founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., and Desiree Schell, labor activist and host of Science for the People will be appearing at Secular Women Work. We are working now to add more speakers, so keep your eye on this space for announcements.

The conference will be held in the historic Humphrey Conference Center on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. The center is ADA compliant and situated on light rail.

So, come join us this August 21st through the 23rd for the Secular Women Work conference, and help support the women who work to make these communities happen! Make your pledge now to secure your ticket to the conference, or pledge to build a better movement by helping us make more, and more effective, activists.

See you there!