A story in last week's Guardian told the story of programmer Sarah Blow's experience as one of the few women attending a "Geek Dinner":
. . .the other guests "either assumed I was in marketing or completely incompetent and that I didn't have a clue about any of the stuff they were talking about," she says. "I was stood next to one of my male friends, and was cut out of the conversation to the point where it was like: 'You don't know this stuff, this is absolutely nothing to do with you - you just sit there and look pretty.'"The men's conversation turned to Blow's area of expertise, the programming language C#.net. When they finished talking, Blow seized the moment. She showed them the binary watch she was wearing: "I lit it up, and they didn't say a word; absolute silence. Then they went completely white and apologised profusely for what they'd done. I said, 'don't make assumptions about people, because you never know who they are, or what they know - so whether I look like a techie or not shouldn't matter.' At that point they changed their attitude to all the females in the room."Blow took that experience and decided to create an event of her own for women*: the London Girl Geek Dinners. Since she started the dinners almost three years ago, the idea has rapidly spread.
The international extent of the problem, and the eagerness to address it, became clear when Blow set up a website to advertise the dinners - she soon had women across the world contacting her, asking if they could set up their own branches. There are now groups in Australia, America, New Zealand and across the UK and Europe. Blow recently attended the Milanese Girl Geek Dinner, and found to her delight that geeks are the height of fashion in Italy. "They had Glamour magazine down there, and that was just hilarious. In Italy the stars of the technology industry are also the stars in the local magazines." In London, the dinners have become so popular that participants have begun meeting once a fortnight for Girl Geek Coffee mornings. The next dinner is in June, and the biggest date on the horizon is their three-year anniversary event, to be held at Google headquarters in August.Check out the Girl Geek Dinners website for more information about upcoming meetings around the world. Currently there are groups in the UK (London, Brighton, Nottingham, Manchester), Ireland, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Saskatoon), New Zealand, Australia (Sydney), Malaysia, and the USA (Bay Area, Seattle, Northern Virginia).
* men can attend if invited by a woman
Tags: Girl Geek Dinners, women in computer science, networking