After last night’s Geek Girl Dinner, I’m starting to wonder. The restaurant was packed with women from all walks of geek life, talking geek, learning geeky stuff and having a good time. This event came straight after reading a Wellingtonista article about another tech event that managed to attract virtually no women at all ( A common theme among non women focused tech events in Wellington)
This made me really start to question if we have a shortage of geeky girls at all. And maybe there are other factors in play as to why we women aren’t pulling our weight in the male dominated tech arena.
Geek girls don’t look and act like Geek boys
A 19 year old stood up for a lightening talk and laughed about how she is used to being one of few girls in her comp sci class, how she feels the classes aren’t tailored to how she learns and how people think she’s weird for doing it. She was beautiful, articulated and charismatic. These traits are often mistaken for those of people in marketing (A complaint I hear a lot form women in tech).
I read with sadness Brenda’s article about her treatment in the tech industry which, sadly reads rather similarly to mine – re. being mistaken for the secretary or deemed unable to understand what the men are talking about. I have also had two conversations with two tech women in the US this week. Each of them had the same complaint: EVERYONE thinks I’m in PR!
I think the world expects geeks to be male, I just don’t think we fit the stereotype, and I wonder if many geeky girls even classify themselves as geeks? Maybe there are many of us lurking around somewhere, blissfully unaware that our fondness of WoW, algorithms and code actually categorise us as true blue geek heads.
Geek Girls will sort it out
I find it amusing how the approach to integrate women is for the men to ‘create more equal environments’. That’s rubbish. Sorry guys, you can’t fix this for us. Lets face it, events organised by you are tailored to you, no matter how much you focus group with the odd woman you meet, you wont be able to oganise an event for women half as well as women organise an event for women (hense the success of last night). I would suggest maybe attending a few women dominated events, sitting back and staying fairly quiet. You may find talk of ‘imposter syndrome’ stupid, you may find the giggling ‘Sorry I’m no good at public speaking’ statements annoying, but you will gain valuable insight into a way of doing things that the mainstream male dominated events don’t really cater to.
But what about the whole community?
In my experience, great imbalances don’t get fixed in a day. I really feel like last night I experienced a grass roots movement of people trying build a new culture in an industry that is crying out for one. A natural progression of a larger, more confident female tech scene is the integration with the male tech scene in an equal and really exciting way. We may have a shortage of girls in tech, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the typical Silicon Welly event would suggest. We also have the benefit of some very strong female leaders and sucess stories who are really getting behind the drive to encourage others like them to embrace their geeky side.