How much does it cost to get dinner for 200 people? Someone estimated $10k, which seemed ridiculously high to me, but it comes out to $50/per person. I can easily spend that on a nice night out with friends. With a salad, dinner, and dessert–coffee and wine to our hearts’ delight–$50 no longer seems that unreasonable.

Tampons cost about $0.20/each. A tampon dispenser runs about $750. One of these stores about 50 tampons. Assuming you have to refill it periodically (let’s say it costs a generous $20.00 to have someone refill it), we get:

[20*(tampons/50)] + 750 + .20(tampons) = 10,000

Which, I think, comes out to about 8,400 tampons.

In a typical menstruation period, people use about 20 tampons. This $10,000 could provide tampons for an estimated 420 cycles.

Why are we using tampons? Access to tampons is a huge issue for the homeless.

In some ways, 420 cycles doesn’t seem like a whole lot–there are more homeless people menstruating in any given major US city right now.

Food scales pretty well, when looking at spending $10,000. GenerationOn estimates that this could buy 40,000 meals.

Massachusetts gets reimbursed $3.16 per meal by the federal government for free student lunch. This $10k could also get us about 3,160 school lunches in MA.

I enjoy getting nice, free dinners with my friends. The networking is cool, but I really like just sitting with the people I like, talking about things we care about, and not having to pay for dinner on an already expensive trip.

I’m not saying we should stop having speaker dinners at conferences. Nor am I condemning spending money for fun, or calling these things frivolous. My roommate, in response to the avocado toast debacle, and someone calling her out on drinking expensive lattes, argued that the joy she gets from those things is sometimes something she needs to deal with all the stress of living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States.

I do think we need to consider whether this is the best use of the $10,000, and if instead we should be doing something else. It’s unlikely that any major tech company would be interested in buying tampons for a bunch of homeless women or lunch for a bunch of students–the ROI on it is pretty insignificant compared to the overall industry benefits of building a strong, more connected community of “thought leaders” in technology.

But sometimes, as I turn down the piece of cheesecake someone already cut and plated for me, as I ask the waiter for another bottle of wine for the table, or as I play with the little card announcing to the organizers that I am a vegetarian, I wonder if it’s the right thing for me to be at this meal.