I’ve been a little quiet this week, and as part of my “non-food life,” I’ve been organizing the next Girl Geek Dinner in Italy, this Friday.
The whole Girl Geek movement started in London by Sarah Blow when Sarah was at a technology event that was 90% men. That might sound familiar to anyone who read my comments about last year’s Girl Geek Dinner and FemCamp. I remember truly feeling outnumbered in my Cisco CCNA classes (one woman out of 40 students) and later networking in Silicon Valley in the first dot-com bust where boxers were being practically thrown at women as the ratio of was so low. Numbers have improved, but not that much. The first Girl Geek Dinner in the Bay Area drew almost 600 people. Our own dinner, while a bit smaller at 120 people, has its own waiting list of 70+ women, so obviously there is an interest here, too.
In the past month I’ve lost two of my Girl Geeks in Italy to other countries, where they found opportunity easier and readily available. It’s not easy to stay in Italy, a country where the technology industry is still not as important as fashion or food, but it is making progress. I would love for Italy to become a magnet for technology and stop their brain drain when their paesani leave for other opportunities.
Our theme for the Girl Geek Dinner is Network. Share. Empower. which was thought up by my brilliant friend and organizer, Lisa Morris. It embodies a divine purpose for any group, be they women, men, or mixed.
- Network: Meet others. Connect others.
- Share: Find a common ground. Share your experiences. Share information.
- Empower: Not only yourself. Empower others with information, ways to improve, mentoring, contacts and resources.
During this period, I’ve had Italian journalists ask me “Why have a group for Women?” – while I was living in the States, I wouldn’t have even thought twice. But here, I have asked myself and various friends and colleagues this same question.
My immediate, personal answer may be different from an Italian woman’s opinion, because I have come from another reality. In fact, I still have one foot firmly planted there. But I want to make my life here in Italy. I want to stop seeing my foreign girlfriends moving away for job reasons, for opportunities. I need to have great examples of successful women in technology in Italy, to give myself more opportunities to network (both online and offline) and to help the next generation of Italian women become technical geniuses, entrepreneurs and bloggers. Until then, it will also be easier for me to look outside the country for opportunities. I would love to use the foot I have outside of Italy as a way to help others come here, not the other way around.
As much as I enjoy being online, I realize there is a huge percentage of women in Italy that don’t have a blog, maybe never even read blogs and are not interested in becoming involved in events organized using online tools like Facebook and Wikis, and are still very successful. Sometimes an event like this is the only way to bring the two halves together, for them to tap into our world and vice-versa. It becomes a mix of learning and teaching.
Now that I’ve come above the fold a bit and can see some opportunities, ways to connect and be involved, I feel that I have to turn around and reach that 1 in 40 girl, that high school freshman, that woman examining her options and finding no opportunity. Some of the most rewarding parts of being in the Women in Business at Santa Clara University was when we went to schools and taught kids (boys and girls) about business, but sometimes it’s just satisfaction in connecting one person in search of something with another.
While I’m still answering this question, and I will continue to change my response over time, I look at something very interesting. Last year, because of a female friend, I came to the first GGD, where I met other women, who then encouraged me to come to FemCamp and other events where there were both men and women. And now I’m planning an event with these women that, before the first GGD, for the large part had never met one another, and simply sat at a table together (and were later accosted by me making the rounds).
Maybe this Friday, a table of other women will make that same connection, for whatever reasons, and start their own endeavor, in whatever area.
I’m curious to hear your viewpoints, too. Obviously I know it will be a little biased as my blog has ads from BlogHer and I know my audience is largely women.
Do you think we need women-focused groups? In what kind of environment can you envision the elimination of such groups? Do they hurt or help?