Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners Pursues Gender Equality in Silicon Valley

The male-dominated tech industry is an age-old problem. How many tech events have you attended with women as the obvious minority?

The lack of gender balance in the tech industry has always been an issue I identified with. When studying at USC, I was a board member of the University chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE). So when I started working at a tech company after college and found out about Bay Area Girl Geek dinners, the idea of combining women in technology, networking and fun – all in one night – sounded too good to be true! Was there really a network of girl geeks like me out there?

Girl Geek Dinners started in August 2005 in London and are now there are chapters of Girl Geek Dinners all over the world. Women 2.0 co-founder Angie Chang noticed that there was no Bay Area chapter, and promptly started one in 2008. It was received with an overwhelming response right from the first dinner, which was hosted by Google and drew 400 attendees.

I found out about Girl Geek Dinners on Facebook, and I felt I had to get involved! I work for Citrix, and HR was looking for some new and interesting ways to promote the San Francisco office. I suggested we host a Girl Geek Dinner, and what a success it was! Meanwhile I had emailed Angie asking if I could help her out in any way with the organization. When I finally met her at the dinner, we agreed that the first place I could start was by working on the website. A few weeks later, I began helping Angie with organizing the dinners. I didn’t know it at the time, but that event changed my life!

What do these dinners entail? Companies buy dinner and drinks for geek girls. This allows for networking  amongst the attendees and recruiting by the sponsoring company. There’s also co-branded schwag given out at the dinners to make the dinners more memorable.

The planning for a Girl Geek Dinner starts when a representative from a company shows interest in hosting an event. Some companies need more help and ask us to find them a venue, suggest talk topics, and even find speakers. Bigger companies have facilities on-site, and have employees from VPs to engineers who form the speaker panel to talk up their products and work culture, so don’t need hand holding in that regard. We stay in constant touch and two weeks before the event, we create a Eventbrite invite for attendees to register for free.

The format of these dinners has varied, from panel discussions to lightning talks. The talk topics and speaker bios are posted in the Eventbrite invite we publish via our mailing list, Facebook fan page, Twitter, and the website. The dinners usually fill up within a few minutes of opening the event for RSVPs! Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch called us “One of the toughest tickets to get in Silicon Valley”

What draws people to Girl Geek Dinners are the talk topics, the hosting company, and the opportunity to mingle with other attendees over dinner and drinks over the talk topics, which range from programming languages to career development in a tech company. These dinners have been very successful in connecting people together and in helping companies get their name out.

When I graduated from USC and began working, I wasn’t able to find an organization whose work excited me as SWE did. Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners does that and more for me. To say it has benefited me personally and professionally is a thorough understatement. I had always been too shy to let myself standout in a crowd, and now I am finally coming out of my shell as a co-organizer of Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners. I especially love interacting with the interesting girl geeks I meet at these dinners. Through these dinners, women in tech can get together and encourage each other (and other women who want to get into the tech field) without being afraid, because this industry needs more female power!

To stay in touch about future dinners, sign up for our Mailing List, “Like” us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter!

This post was originally published in India West here

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