Why don’t we do digital dinner?

6 Mar 2008

If male bias is a problem in the tech sector, why widen the chasm by creating a girls-only club?

After attending the first ever Geek Girls dinner in Dublin last week, I agreed with organiser Martha Rotter, a Microsoft developer, when she said it was categorically not an event designed to lament the woes of women oppressed in an all-male technology environment.

Geek Girls is about meeting other women who work in and are passionate about technology but it also acts as a good base for mentoring young people, men and women alike, who are interested in a career in the industry.

Plus, men can come along to the dinners which will be happening on a rotation basis around the country and throughout the year, as long as a geek girl invites them along.

“What I have noticed in the industry is sometimes women shy away from a group simply because there aren’t any women there yet: they wonder if it’s because they couldn’t make themselves heard or if it’s a sexist team,” said Rotter.

“In that case, it becomes a problem of not enough role models. I think that’s one place where an organisation like this can really help: providing visible role models in the community.”

One of the 40 women who attended the Geek Girls dinner, Maryrose Lyons, founder of internet marketing firm Brightspark Consulting, said it seemed like an ideal way to meet possible mentors or future employers.

While not having an axe to grind, Lyons feels there still remains an element of the ‘old boys club’ in the Irish technology sector: “They might not be official but they certainly exist.”

“Because many women leave the workplace when they opt to have kids, on returning they’re usually spending what little free time they have getting to know their children.

“We have an ongoing leaking out of the existing women in the sector, so we should rally around while we’re here. We owe it to ourselves while we’re still in the workplace.”

Software tester, Laura Czajkowski, echoes the sentiment: “There are in fact a lot more females who work in this industry but for some reason do not socialise outside of work with regard to IT events.

“Why is this? Is it family? Are they sick of talking about IT? Have they nobody to go to an event with them?”

Czajkowski thinks there is still an attitude of surprise and novelty surrounding geek girls.

“I was president of a computer society for the past 18 months and on the committee for four years in total. Most of the members were blokes, in many cases I was one of about eight active female members out of 400.

“My username was Cypher so most people presumed I was a bloke and nearly died when I met them in person and they realised I was a girl!”

By Marie Boran