Sarah Lamb is a consultant focused on social media and communities. After experiencing a Geek Dinner, she decided it was time to set up her own. She’d seen enough cases where women weren’t always welcome at technical events, and she started her Geek Girl Dinners. Her focus is lowering barriers of entry to technology for everyone.
Let’s find out what she’s up to!
1) Sarah, Geek Girl Dinners were founded after you found some technical meetings to be less than welcoming to women. What kind of experiences did you have?
Yes Steven, Girl Geek Dinners were founded almost 10 years ago and the experience of being a female attending technical events was a lot different to how it is today. Often women were excluded from conversations both passively and actively. Comments like you must be in PR or marketing were common place but fortunately this has changed over the years.
2) So you founded Geek Girl Dinners. How did you get this started?
When I started Girl Geek Dinners there wasn’t such a thing as Twitter or Facebook just trusty old blogs! I had a blog of my own and wrote about my idea of a Geek Dinner but for Girls and got a range of responses including one that asked when is it. At that point I decided that if I didn’t do one then it just wouldn’t happen. I sourced a venue and published the date, time and location on a wiki and announced it on my blog. People registered on the wiki and we all turned up on the same day at the same time. Everyone paid for their own food and drinks.
3) What’s the typical Geek Girl Dinner like?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical Girl Geek Dinner these days. Every group has their own flavour which reflects their city and culture. For example if you went to a Girl Geek Dinner in Italy it would be in a foody restaurant with speeches between sessions on a technical subject. In say Bay Area these events are on a much larger scale and a sit down dinner for many hundreds of people just isn’t possible so finger food buffet style food and a more formal conference style venue is more likely.
The key thing that binds all the groups together is their passion for technology and desire to share their experience with one another in a friendly environment. Men are invited to attend by their female counterparts – each female has 1 invite to give out.
4) You also mentioned that your dinners, though focused on women, are inclusive of everyone. How do you balance your needs and goals?
When I started Girl Geek Dinners I realised early on that the events needed to be inclusive of men which is why we have a simple rule that every female attendee has the ability to invite a male attendee. If every female attendee did this we would have a 50:50 ratio. The women attending have the ability to create the balance as they see fit. Men can suggest the event to women and request to join them at the event as well.
5) How has reception been to the Geek Girl Dinners?
We have had a phenomenal response to our events around the world. When I first started out in London I expected to run maybe 2-3 events and didn’t anticipate the events going global. As such I am amazed and excited by every new group that joins our network.
6) Have you done any work to “spread the word” to other cities and countries?
We don’t do deliberate outreach for our network. Our members are our voice. They spread the word about events and they set up new networks where they see an opportunity to do good.
7) What can people to do make technology and technical access and education more available to everyone?
The biggest single thing anyone can do to make technology and technical access and education available to everyone is to stop assuming that technology, it’s access and understanding of it requires you to be a specific gender. Anyone whatever gender, race or religion has the ability to learn, understand, use and create technology. There are circumstances in some parts of the world where access to hardware is harder but governments and organisations are working hard to make this easier. Organisations such as Telecentre.org are creating amazing workspaces and opportunities in these areas.
There are a few simple questions we should all be asking ourselves:
- What do I do with my old technology?
- Who could benefit from my old technology hardware?
- How do I get it to them?
- How can they learn to use it?
Often the answers are simple and local but sometimes there are opportunities to make a big difference globally.
8) Are there any other groups, organizations, and causes with similar goals you can recommend?
Girl Geek Dinners works closely with a number of different organisations around the world. In the US we work closely with the NCWIT Alliance which brings together a broad range of gender and technology organisations. On a more global level we work with the United Nations ITU on various campaigns.
9) Any final advice to our citizen geeks?
If you have a good idea don’t be afraid to follow it through. Anyone can come up with a good idea but very few try to turn that idea into something real.
If you want to learn more about technology and computers give it a go. There are loads of websites and in person groups who would be more than happy to help you get started and offer advice and support!