This is Part I of a 3-part series about the joys and the challenges of Women in Technology.
This marked #12 of Boston Girl Geek Dinners, this time hosted by VMware!
Most mornings, I take a shuttle to work. As I scoot onto the bus and take a seat, I notice the majority of faces are female. On the elevator ride to the 5th floor, I am surrounded by fellow skirts and dresses. However, as I walk through the big open office space that houses the digital team, passing producers, then designers, then developers, I notice a gradient of gender that quickly becomes male dominated.
Now let me say, I love my summer internship. Despite being young and female I have never felt unwelcome or judged as being less than capable. On day 1 of my first project, making a promo page for an upcoming PBS series, I already had a works-like prototype for the designer and producer to fiddle around with. Despite their initial surprise, they quickly realized I could produce prototypes at a rate faster than they were expecting and their tasks rose to meet me with a challenge.
Despite feeling happy and at home in my workplace, I am still occasionally aware of the gender discrepancy. When Jolin Yim (the other female developer) forwarded along an email about the upcoming Boston Girl Geek Dinner, I immediately bought my ticket.
It is Tuesday, July 29th at 5:10 PM and Jolin pops into my perephiral. "Chelsea, it's time to go!" Grabbing my bag, I get on the 64 bus with 4 other women who all work at WGBH with me. Although we got to the event a little early, the weather was great and it gave us a chance to meet up with some of my coworker's friends and admire the interior of VMware's offices.
Our group of girls beneath the rainbow ceiling just inside of the building!
Once we're in the building, we've set ourselves on some very direct goals.
Step 1: Find and collect the swag.
I love swag, yes I do! I love swag, how 'bout you?
Posing in our new cat-eye duds
Step 2: Toss our bags on some seats to reserve space. This event sold out (100 ladies in attendance!) and the room quickly becomes standing room only.
Step 3: FOOD.
Jolin's eyes have a certain gleam to them when the topic of dinner gets brought up. Girl likes to eat! As we turn to head in the direction of delicious smells wafting in our direction we are delighted to see tonight's entrée. Crepes! Yum!
Thanks crepe guys! Job well done!
With food and drinks in hand, we were ready to socialize! Now, I'll be honest: I'm not great at networking, and I'm sure others can relate. Put me in an interview seat and I'm at the ready with answers to your questions. As an R2 (Resident Resource at Olin), I can stand at the front desk and hand out orientation packets all day with a smile on my face, the best people-person you could ask for. Still, put me in a room of strangers, cool intelligent professional strangers... and I clam up.
Here's what I learned: there is safety in numbers! This might not be true for all events, but in our case it was really nice to have a group of women I knew decently well to be conversing with. Others popped in to introduce themselves and join our conversation. It made the whole event so much more comfortable for me.
After a while of chatting and devouring delicious crepes, it was time for the main presentations. I've been told there is a lot of variation among the geek girl dinners. They are hosted by a different company each month, and therefore the discussion topics will vary. This month, it was an hour for 4 short chats - each one covering a different aspect of all things we call geek. From Harry Potter musings to a demo of testing UI's on mobile devices, from one woman in tech's story of her life journey to a presentation on the always-important-to-discuss Impostor's Syndrome, there was something for everyone.
Although Iris Amelia's presentation was full of goofy cartoons (which she drew herself!), the material she covered was seriously heartfelt.
This is where I have a chance to preach, or encourage: community events like this, especially those targeted toward uniting females who may feel like a minority in their categories of interest, are worth our time investments. There is a whole heck of a lot to be said about women in tech (more on that later in the series), but there are other women seeking connections too: the girl who felt left out because she wanted to game with the boys growing up, the girl who attends ComicCon and makes Dr. Who references. At Olin, you are so surrounded by geek culture and gender equality (at least in numbers) that it's easy not to feel left out. For women who don't get to exist in our inclusive all-geek all-the-time atmosphere, events like this are a real treat! It was nice to meet new people who I could have an immediate connection with due to our shared interests.
I loved my experience at Boston Girl Geek Dinners. It seemed like a great environment for networking and job seeking, but also just for a night of fun! Still, where the dinner ended is where this story gets really good. What would any retelling be without a cliff hanger? Come back in a few days for part two!