Using gender as an advantage and the lack of great female role models in the tech world were some of the main topics touched upon at the Berlin Geekettes Summer Meetup on Monday evening.
A general theme emerged from the speakers that empowering women in tech should be more about equality and visibility, rather than continuing the battle of the sexes. Some interesting points were made and an impromptu debate was sparked amongst the audience about whether employers should purposely seek out more female employees when hiring, or if they should always just pick the best person for the job – whoever that might be.
Zoe Adamovicz, CEO of Xyologic and one of the first Geekettes, gave a somewhat controversial talk about why women should use their gender to their advantage, and argued that as a woman in the tech industry it was better to stand out than to blend in. She talked about femininity giving women better access to funds and investors, and the control that comes with being a slightly exotic creature in a male-dominated field. Zoe stressed that while some women may see this as being humiliating, men use their gender to their advantage all the time. Her talk inspired both mutterings of dissent and murmurs of agreement from the audience.
Making a Statement About Women
The evening’s first speaker, Lisa Lang of Campus Party, spoke about how the conference is committed to having at least one day where the male-to-female ratio is 60:40. She spoke about how the gender split in the Campus Party workplace is just naturally 50:50, and how this is helping make a statement about women in the industry, not just in Berlin but in Europe as a whole. She called for female tech communities in Berlin to make themselves more visible at Campus Party, where the Berlin Geekettes will host a panel on Women in Tech.
Jocelyn Afful and Dajana Günther from Rails Girls were up next to talk about their organization that seeks to teach women about Ruby on Rails programming. Started in April 2012 as a one-off Rails workshop for beginners, the group expanded to become a monthly meetup. One of the things that Jocelyn and Dajana stressed was that their organization was not really about ‘girl power’ but rather about making the masculine world of programming more equal and more accessible for women.
Caitlin Winner of Amen gave the crowd her insights about launching a startup and the things she had learnt. She dealt with such issues as finding the right staff, getting the execution right and dealing with the eccentricities of an online community. She purposely ignored the issue of gender in her talk, saying afterwards that it had not really been something that had ever factored into her professional life.
Organizer Jess Erickson was delighted with the meetup, and with the increased visibility of women in technology in general. Speaking on Tuesday, she said: “This morning I read that Google’s first female engineer Marissa Mayer will become Yahoo’s new CEO. These are the kind of headlines I hope to read in Germany in the future. Last night’s event proved to me that there are many women in Berlin who are capable and willing to jumpstart their own tech company. They are enthusiastic, ready for the challenge and excited to learn from another. I’m so happy that Google opened up their doors to us and of course a big thank you to Crowdpark for sponsoring this event. More to come!”