Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 09:31 UK

Girl geek appeal: Women's movement online

Jamillah Knowles
Online reporter

Judith Lewis
Judith Lewis of London Girl Geek Dinners

Women may still be a minority in the technology industry but they are establishing strong support networks to stay connected.

An event at London's recent Sci-Fi film festival was aimed at women and produced by women - with the aim of supporting female comic book artists and creators.

The presentation included an appearance by Judith Lewis of London Girl Geek Dinners, a not-for-profit organisation designed to bring together women with a personal or professional interest in technology.

The group meets regularly in various venues around London to network and listen to female speakers. Men can only attend if they are accompanied by a "girl geek".

Global phenomena

Girl Geek Dinners has grown from a London-based gathering to groups all over the world including Australia, Canada, America and throughout Europe.

Similar organisations also host events designed to encourage women in technology.

Leslie Fishlock created Geek Girl Camp in the United States. Its projects include donating laptops to women in need and repairing old laptops to give to women returning to education.

However the organisation is best known for its boot camp - a full day of workshops covering all sorts of technology from social media, PC and Mac maintenance, podcasting and programming.

Most of the women who come the camps are like Ms Fishlock's mother who is now in her seventies.

"Technology flew by her, it was not something she could go to school for, she didn't work with it so did not have a lot of computer skills and all she wanted to do was make a spread sheet for her swim team," Ms Fishlock told BBC News.

Tech-feminism

We're not trying to be radical or disruptive, but to show that women have a place in technology
Judith Lewis

It may sound like a classic case of feminism in action but the groups are cautious of the association.

"The feminist movement was incredibly important to people like my mum who had to argue with people like my programming teacher so that I could stay in my course," explained Judith Lewis.

"To her the word feminist means something different. In a sense [Geek Girl Dinners] is a feminist movement as it aspires to a lot of the same ideals but I don't want it to be seen as something that is feminist as this can be seen as something marginal or negative.

"We're not trying to be radical or disruptive, but to show that women have a place in technology."

Geek label

The term geek is also controversial. Some in the tech world are happy to embrace it while others find it insulting. How do women feel about being called a geek?

Julie Roads
Julie Roads is one of the speakers at Girl Geek Camp

Julie Roads works with Leslie Fishlock at the Geek Girl Camps as a speaker, blogger and tech evangelist. She thinks the term has positive connotations.

"It's Geek Girl, not Geek Woman, it's alliterative and it's meant to be fun. Our logos are all pink and that is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. It's friendly but it walks the line between the serious issues and gathering to have fun."

Ms Fishlock also believes that it has been accepted by her group with good humour.

"Women may not be geeks but they want to be a geek girl."

Judith Lewis feels that semantics can weigh the issue down.

"Often we get too wrapped up in the naming of things. We have striven to expand what people understand about what the word means and also to try to not make it such a negative word."

Geek Girl initiative

Geek Girl Camp logo

In organising meetings and social groups worldwide, these organisations cover a wide selection of cultural tastes, skills and ideas. The aim in all cases is to provide support and encouragement where it is most needed.

"The woman of the house should not have to say, I'll wait for my son to come back from college to put songs on my iPod or fix my computer, it's making those lessons available so they can do it themselves," said Ms Fishlock.

"There are many resources online where they can go to learn. In schools, demand that your kids are learning more about technology, in your community, get involved in women in tech programs."

Judith Lewis hopes that one day groups such as Girl Geek Dinners will no longer be necessary.

"It would be lovely in 20 years for Girl Geek Dinners to be completely pointless as it would be taken for granted that women work well in this sector. With men and women coming to talk about they're doing and how rewarding it is not just to be a women in tech, but to be working in tech full stop."

You can hear more about the project in this week's Pods and Blogs podcast.



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