Friday, May 30, 2008

Girl Geek Dinners

London Girl Geek DinnersA 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 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
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clockwork_watchmaker said...

hey, really dig your blog, i was trying to think of some suggestions for posts, i dunno if you've heard of patricia picinni or neri oxman, but they sound like your cup of tea, if i may presume what saucers you prefer

Joshua said...

This is pretty surprising treatment of Blow. Naively I would have thought that the heterosexual male geeks would have said "Hey! A geek girl!" and then gone out of their way to talk to her. I've certainly seen that sort of thing happen at geek-events before. Were there actual marketing people at this event? I can't really explain the males behavior otherwise.

Peggy K said...

clockwork_watchmaker: thanks for the suggestions

joshua: The problem is that her appearance didn't identify her as "one of them", so the geek dudes just assumed she wasn't. If the event was like the Geek Girl dinners there were probably marketers, significant others and the interested public in attendance.

LeCinQBlog said...

Believe it or not, I have experienced so many such similar situations.Male collegues start off with talking to you in a patronizing manner and start trying to explain to you how to do your job.Sometimes it gets irritating when they give you tips and those tips basicially suck and they have this demeanour where they present it as that they are trying to help the poor me out.Why would they assume that i won't know how to do my job is what is sad .It takes extra effort to get over that initial snub and let them know that you know better and can and will and have performed better than them even.They have been socially conditioned to look down at women in general perhaps due to the kind of women they have been around at home and during their childhood who must have treated them like superiors or some such.One has to go out of the way to make sure they respect you .I have at times needed to say ,"hey, I have the same educational degree as you and I am sure i would know how to do that !" and yet, it is still tough .

Darwi said...

Thanks for the link. I did not even know that event like this exist.

Peggy K said...

le cinq blog: It doesn't seem right that you have to keep proving yourself all the time. Maybe there's a meetup in your area you could attend?