August is not only significant for Women’s Day, it also marks the 10 year anniversary of Girl Geek Dinners. Girl Geek Dinners were founded on 16th August 2005 in the US by Sarah Lamb, who got annoyed and frustrated at being one of the only females in the audience every time she went to technical events. She was tired of the assumption that she worked in marketing, tired of constantly having to prove herself and decided that she wanted to be treated just the same as any other geek out there, gender and age aside.
And thus a movement was born. Out of that first dinner, a network of groups across the world sprang up rapidly, providing a place for women to meet, eat and support each other in their careers. There are currently over 65 Girl Geek Dinner organisations internationally, all of which meet with one aim; creating a safe space for women in tech to come together.
To be geeky is to be intelligent, have passion for a subject and to know that subject in depth. It’s not at all about being better than others, or about gender, race, religion or anything else. Those things just detract from the real fun stuff, the technology, the innovation and the spread of new ideas. This is precisely what the Girl Geek Dinner movement is all about.
The first Girl Geek Dinner in Africa launched in Cape Town in 2010 by Mariska Du Preez, who has since handed the dinners over to Suhaifa Naidoo, current organisor and chairperson of Girl Geek Dinners Cape Town. A Joburg chapter also exists.
The Cape Town events are no longer just about networking, they’re about education as well. We differentiate quite heavily from the other women in tech events. Our focus has shifted to education and empowering young girls and students. We want them to know that the possibility of a career in tech is within their reach. The events are open to anyone who wants to listen including students, CEO’s, developers and men.
Girl Geek Dinners Cape Town still encourage networking at our events, we believe it is fundamental but to solve real problems, we need more women in tech.
Over the last five years GGDCPT created a space for women in tech to come together and talk about a variety of subjects ranging from Software Development Methodologies to juggling family and careers. However it is also extremely important to let younger girls know the various amount of opportunities out there. Educating girls from a young age about tech will definitely lessen the gap between men and women later on. It all starts with the students.
There have been dozens of students attend GGDCPT and about 5 have told me that after listening to the speakers, they changed their university application to Computer Science. This to me is making a difference.
Girl Geek Dinners Cape Town calls upon more women to get involved with their dinners and education initiatives. We need more women speakers, mentors and guides. For more information on truly making a difference visit www.ggdcpt.com.[About the author Suhaifa Naidoo is the organiser of the Cape Town chapter of Girl Geek Dinners. You can contact her via Twitter here.] [Image – Pacman Cupcakes, CC Susanne Nilson]