3 Ways Chic Geek is Helping Women in Tech: A She++ Recap

July 14, 2013

 

A few weeks ago we hosted a screening for She++: The Documentary, a short video directed by two Stanford computer science grads. The documentary highlighted stories, thoughts and clips from remarkable and unconventional women in computer science as well as men who support diversity in the field. We had almost 30 women from the community come out to munch on some popcorn and participate in a lively discussion about women in technology following the movie. We had six different tables and questions for our participants to rotate through. You talked and we listened. We made furious notes with smelly markers and here’s a summary of the most important themes we heard and what the Chic Geek plans to do about them.

 

#1. Spotlight Female Role Models in our Industry

 What We Heard:

We need more strong female role models in leadership and techie positions to inspire other women and demonstrate what’s possible. There are stereotypes around computer programmers being anti-social and awkward. We need awesome, admirable women to step in, push those ideas aside and challenge the way we think about this industry. When I was five, I wanted to grow up and be a social worker like my Mom. She was a woman I looked up to and wanted to be. Maybe if I had techie females as heroines in my favourite cartoons or storybooks, I would have wanted to grow up to be a computer programmer. We need to see more female role models – at all ages, young and old – in real life and mainstream media.

 
What We’re Going to Do About It:

We’re planning a big speaker event in October to highlight the talented, successful women we have in our own city. We’re still working on the details, but we’re imagining an intimate affair with a panel discussion and round-tables to follow so attendees can engage with these inspirational women on a more personal level. This event will show what women are capable of and provide a platform for up-and-coming Chic Geeks to connect and learn from the women who have done it. Want to recommend an amazing woman who’s doing great things in Calgary? Send Kylie an email at kylie@thechicgeek.ca

#2. Get Girls Interested in Coding at a Younger Age

What We Heard:

This was a theme that came up repeatedly – start younger! It’s so important to reach girls while they’re still young – before any stereotypes about math and science have formed – to show them how cool computer science can be. A proactive approach would help deter negative stereotypes about the industry.

 
What We’re Going to Do About It:

We’re looking into ways to reach out to girls in grades 6-9. We have ideas around what types of skills we can teach them, but don’t quite have the people-power to implement a program right now. We’re working really hard to bring a younger audience into the Chic Geek, but like any lean startup with limited resources, we have to pick and choose our battles. Just know that it’s on the horizon for us and something we’re actively working on!

#3: Create a Safe Space for Women Getting into Tech

What We Heard:

Like many other women, I have fears and self-doubts when it comes to my career and my capabilities. I have fears about the Chic Geek and whether the events we run are going to be successful. I’m worried about the work and educational choices I’m making. During the She++ discussion, I learned that many other women experience the same things I do. I was touched by their honest, candid responses about the challenges they face entering the tech field and exploring their technical abilities. There’s a lack of confidence because it’s a new industry for us and that can be a little scary and overwhelming. There’s a fear that we’ll be judged poorly or people will think we’re stupid if we don’t grasp the concepts right away. There’s a fear of math and science because we haven’t touched those topics in 10 years since we graduated high school. While some barriers we face are external, many more are internal and there are ways we can address them.

 
What We’re Going To Do About It:

If we boil the Chic Geek down to a core concept, it’s about building a safe space where women feel comfortable exploring the hi-tech and startup community in Calgary. We want to make our Chic Geeks feel welcome, like they’re part of a family. That’s an experience we’ve been delivering successfully at every one of our events and will continue to do so!  We aim to deliver that experience at every one of our events We’re still working out the kinks of how we can deliver this every time, but engaging other groups in the community and making them aware of what we do creates a warmer environment for our Chic Geeks when they explore the hi-tech and startup community on their own.

 

THANK YOU!

 

We learned a lot from our community during the She++ discussion and we couldn’t have done it without you. For more event pictures, visit our Facebook Page. If you missed the documentary screening, it is available here.

 

If some of these themes have piqued your interest or you have an opinion to share, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

 

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