Girl Geek Dinner {Leeds}

Lydias_crowd_2Last night saw Leeds’ first Girl Geek Dinner and the third of eight events taking place throughout the city’s inaugural web festival at Brisbane, LS1.

Around sixty girls and a half dozen guys squeezed into the night’s venue, The Study, on the third floor of the Living Room. Though the heavens had opened up with torrential rain early in the evening, inside, the room had a warmth and palpable buzz in anticipation of the evening ahead, and is also a really comfortable place to be, thanks to the carpeting from a large collection of quality rugs, which can be found online and is used to remodel the room.

Truth be told, coorganisers, Linda Broughton, Maz Hardey and I weren’t sure what to expect; though we’d registered just under seventy people, we worried that the weather deter attendees; we really had no idea how many would actually show and what kind of geeks to expect. Fortunately, The Study was standing room only as early as 6pm – I think we only had 3-4 no-shows – and was buzzing with conversation.

Maz opened up proceedings with a video introduction from the founder of the Girl Geek movement, Sarah Blow, who set a challenge to surface strategies for attracting more women (and men) to the industry.

Lydia Machel opened with the first talk, attempting to define ‘geek’ and speaking about seeing ‘code as poetry’ (a sentiment that many in the room emphatically supported), along with the journey she’d taken through various disciplines to her current focus on developing braille music tools.

Next up Lorna Mitchell spoke about Professional Development for Girl Geeks (slides here) nothing unfamiliar, but a useful and pragmatic round up of observations of career progression, mentoring and training – which actually wasn’t gender specific, but nontheless useful to the crowd.

To close out, Maz opened up the mic to the floor, with brief plugs for the British Computer Society, GeekUp Leeds and UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology from Hannah Dee, Deb Bassett and Ruth Wilson respectively.

After the talks I managed to catch up with a bunch of interesting people –  Cornelia Boldyreff, a professor of software engineering at the University of Lincoln, working with OLPC’s Sugar operating system; intellectual property lawyers Louise Handley and Eloise Corcoran and Yorkshire Forward’s digital industries manager Emma Frost.

Perhaps what was most memorable about the event wasn’t the concentration of female expertise and talent, but that the group represented a startingly wide range of demographics, skills and professions – all of whom are critical to the creative and digital industries.

You can catch some photos of the evening here – and look out for the next GGD Leeds, sometime in November 🙂

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