Girl Geek Dinners: Connecting Women in Technology

Picture by Annie Mole

Established in London in August 2005, Girl Geek Dinners (GGD) aims to connect women in the world of technology together in an informal setting.

GGD organises local social events loosely based on a casual dinner party. The events bring women in technology together to chat, network and generally support each other in a professional capacity. At each “dinner” guest speakers are invited to discuss a technical or business subject of interest to the attendees.

GGD founder, Sarah Blow, established the group to counteract her frustration at attending male-dominated technical events. Since its foundation, it has sprung up in 86 cities over 30 countries and is growing month on month.

Some of its newest cities are Cape Town in South Africa, Damascus in Syria and Ticino in Switzerland.

The popularity of GGD has surpassed the expectations of its creator. Sarah says, “It’s progressing at quite a rate. It’s almost three a week, which is quite a lot. It’s definitely growing and at a much faster rate than I expected.”

With the success of GGD, does Sarah still believe that girl geeks are isolated in their profession? “I think the isolation that was there is definitely disappearing. It’s not as prominent in some sectors of IT as it is in others. Specifically in the programming side of things. Wanting to meet with other females who do programming is possible now because of events like GGD.”

Sarah believes that the rise of social media has played a major role in GGD’s success in linking girl geeks worldwide. The concept began as a blog and Sarah believes, “If blogs hadn’t come about it probably wouldn’t have happened.”

From its roots as a blog, Sarah developed her idea further with the help of Facebook and Twitter, “When Facebook started to gain traction it definitely helped things, it made communication between members of the group much quicker and much easier and also made it easier to find people to take over the groups.”

Twitter has been an interesting one. Twitter has definitely made it easier to reach a wider audience and reach sponsors. Sponsors realise just how effective it is having a message sent out to a community via their community channel. I think that really made it grow quite quickly in terms of numbers turning up to specific events because it gets the word out about the events and it travels around like the speed of light almost.”

Sarah also recommends social media as a tool to aid any girl geeks out there currently looking for work. “Social media is an awesome tool for finding a new job if you use it correctly to be able to profile and showcase your experiences, your expertise but also to find companies that you are interested in. Also, to find people who are actually recruiting in that space. It’s a really useful tool to be able to find other people you are inspired by.”

Men are not excluded from GGD. They are allowed to attend events but only on a direct invitation from a female attendee. This ensures that the maximum amount of male attendees at any one event is 50%.

Sarah says that the reaction by men to GGD has been positive, “The guys that attend the events have opened up to us to develop the community which is one of the things that originally wasn’t natural. The way that people are interacting and reacting is much more positive.

“Guys are now saying – we want more females to come and join our company which is completely different to how it was in 2005. It’s definitely moving in a very positive direction and if it keeps moving in a positive direction I think it can inspire a younger generation into tech.”

GGD is currently working towards two goals. The first is to promote technology in schools with the aim of providing advice to students, teachers and parents. GGD is currently running lectures on an event-by-event basis.

“We’ve done a number of events in London in a couple of schools. We’ve taken inspirational people from the technology industry and put them into the school environment. We‘ve had some of our members as well as the panel of speakers that we’ve put in.”

“The students at the end of it say, we’d always thought that IT was all about Word, Excel and PowerPoint but now we know better. And the teachers say you truly inspired me to actually inspire the students, I now understand what they want.”

The second aim is to establish GGD as a registered charity with the charitable aims of technology, education and women. Sarah sees the ultimate goal of the GGD charity as, “Joining with students, teachers, parents and also people that are actually in business that want to get some support, education and maybe book sponsorships and things like that.”

GGD are currently looking for support in establishing its charitable status in the UK. Sarah explains, “We’ve not actually put the documents forward yet. We’re looking for people that have actually gone through the process of setting up an international charity to help guide us through the process.”

With the continuing growth of GGD as a tool for linking girl geeks worldwide and also the establishment of strong goals for its future, it seems that the GGD tagline – ‘Definitely Does Compute’ – has proven itself to be true.

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