On the 16th of August 2005, a young woman called Sarah Lamb
inadvertently started a world-wide movement.
Sarah, a software engineer with a real passion for gadgets
and technology, had become increasingly annoyed and frustrated about being one
of the only females attending technical events.
Moreover, she was tired of her peers in software engineering
assuming that she was working in the marketing department or some other
function aside from technology.
This lead to the founding of the Girl Geek Dinners, events
held across the world that unites “geeky girls” (and some of their male
counterparts). These events celebrate technology, innovation and new ideas –
and have helped many women who work in technology feel less isolated.
Personally, I never would have imagined that I would have
ended up in the tech industry. I have an academic background in the Social
Sciences and graduated with an undergraduate degree from UCT majoring in
Politics and Religion and a Post Graduate in Religion.
I had no interest whatsoever in the tech or marketing
industries and believed I would end up working for the government.
But when I started off as a PA at Realmdigital I instantly
fell in love with the online industry. Technology is constantly evolving and
every day comes with different challenges and new skills to learn - and I loved
being challenged. It inspired me to keep evolving and learning, and eventually
led me to my current position as Marketing Manager for two successful tech
Traditional marketing can be extremely different to digital
marketing. Technology provides you with so many different tools and platforms
to promote your brand and product and it is incredibly satisfying to see how
well your efforts are paid off.
And because of my history in Social Science, I love seeing
the transformative impact technology has had in terms of health, socio-economic
factors and education.
Social media, for example, has been used to spread awareness
about oppression and abuse, and women all over the world have joined together
and became involved in tackling these crucial issues, which is why it saddens
me to think that most women view technology and ICT as being a male-dominated
Women in technology such as Marissa Meyer and Sheryl
Sandberg are playing important roles in tech on a global scale. These are the
type of women that are going to provide inspiration to others who have doubts
about entering the field.
Younger girls are not being exposed to the many lucrative
tech jobs that are available to them and they need to be educated from an
extremely young age that programming (for example) is not limited to men.
Part of that involves a need to change the negative
perceptions that exist about intelligent, tech-savvy females. The very
dictionary definition of a computer geek, for example is “an unfashionable or
socially inept person with a devotion to technology”.
I’m proud to have reclaimed the word and often refer to
myself as a “Geek Girl”. Being a geek isn’t boring, uncool, unsocial or
Geeks are innovative, cutting edge and empowered people. I
tell young girls that they can be “geeks” but interested in fashion and being
the life of the party too – their interest in technology and learning does not
take this away from them.
The IT industry and new technology can seem incredibly
intimidating, but my advice to young women entering the market space (even if
they are simply starting out in an admin role, like I did) would be to do more,
Yes, it can be somewhat difficult working in a “boys club”
but I am extremely lucky that my male colleagues are extremely supportive and
treat people as individuals rather than according to their gender. We have
realised that having women in a workplace changes the dynamics, but that
changes them in an extremely positive way and we are rewarded for that.
Technology has an amazing, transformative power and it’s
inspiring to see how many women in the Silicon Cape alone are leaving their
jobs to start their own companies. We need more fierce female techpreneurs to
take the initiative and contribute to the industry.
We need to teach men how to relate to (and respect) female
We need our own proudly South African Marissa Meyers and
success stories. The only way to do that is to provide one another with support
and the inspiration to feel good about ourselves, our abilities and our
I organise bi-monthly Girl Geek Dinner events where
tech-savvy women can network, learn and grow. And most importantly, where everyone
can stand up and proudly announce that they are true, unabashed girl geeks.
*Suhaifa Naidoo is marketing manager of Realmdigital and
Snapplify. She is the
latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's Women’s Month campaign
celebrating women in business. Fin24 welcomes your participation in the
campaign. Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
and you could get published.
women's month columns:
The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at
Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant
the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar
your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment
like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore
tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at
a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest
be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group
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