For a long time the internet and technology industries have been dominated by men. In an attempt to encourage more women in to the technology industry, a group of female IT experts have formed an organisation, to help unite and promote women in IT. The group refer to its meetings as Girl Geek Dinners. According the the “Girl Geeks”, Technology conferences are
often all-male affairs and women feel excluded. In some countries the technology industry
is almost entirely dominated by men.
The purpose of the Girl Geek Dinners is simply an attempt to bring more women into the IT industry. According to the Institution of Engineering and Technology, women make up just 7% of the IT workforce in the UK.
“Trying to attract and retain females in the IT industry is very difficult.Not because they’re awkward people to employ, but because they’re actually very good – they’re a minority and people are after them. It’s the idea of different people and the mixing of minds that actually entices people to want to employ women as well as men. It started off with just London, we did our first one in August 2005. People started saying I’d like to organise a Girl Geek Dinner in this location – I give them the format and say these are the rules, go and have some fun with it.” Sarah Blow, the founder of the Girl Geek Dinners.
The meetings provide an opportunity for women to meet and discuss the latest developments and changed in the internet industry without being interrupted by their male counterparts.
The idea has now spread from London to France, where Kate Bourdet is organising the first dinner in Paris.
“I grew up in the United States and out of all my girlfriends, I’m the only one who works in IT. I was told growing up that I wasn’t going to be very good at maths or science because I’m a girl and was pushed into more of the liberal arts area.But if you looked at my testing scores, I always tested higher in mathematics,” Kate Bourdet
A recent survey by the makers of the Blackberry phone revealed that only 25% of women have considered a career in IT, engineering or technology, compared to more than 50% of men. It also revealed that more than 60% of schoolgirls aged 11 to 16 believe that the UK is in need of more female role models in the IT sector.
“In the early days of computing there was this kind of great hope that as a new industry there would be less gender barriers, particularly for women.There were lots of women who were early programmers because at this time software was seen as something that is not the real thing – hardware was the real thing. Lots of women were mathematically trained to do that but over time, software became something that is associated with geeks and nerds and being very male connotated,” Dr Elisabeth Kelan, London Business School.
Some women have altered their image to blend in with the male dominated environment. For example, Julie Lerman, who has worked in IT for more than 20 years, said that she changed her appearance to fit in with her male colleagues;
“I changed the way I dressed and I changed the way I behaved for many, many years.Being girly and being fashionable and being pretty feminine didn’t work very well when I was trying to participate in events where there was a lot of programmers because there weren’t a lot of women. Now there’s more and more women who go to conferences and just finding each other at these dinners is just a saying hey, you understand my life a little more than other people I work with.” Julie Lerman.
One factor that has helped to prompt this change in recent years, is the rise of Web2.0. The internet, which is to some extent driving technological change, is a social phenomena. And women are social creatures by nature. Men, who largely created the interactive web experience, building platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Digg, MySpace, Bebo and Twitter, are now used by millions of women. Women utilise these tools to aid all activities from chating and gossiping with friends, to networking and building new business relationships.
Another growth industry in recent years has been this rise of web marketing and search engine optimisation. Women with their natural flair and networking abilities make excellent people to employ to build networks around website based companies, and to build new partnerships for eCommerce sites. Many in doing so also become very competent at learning to optimise websites to increase their web presence in the search engines.
It really would be no surprise if women eventually dominate the social media and communications industries, as they have a natural aptitude to participate. Some would go so far to say that men do not stand a chance when up against a web savvy, female marketing expert, and they would probably be right.
Source: BBC News