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Diary of a Geek Girl

Aug 14 2012 07:41 Suhaifa Naidoo

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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 companies.

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 industry.

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 unfeminine.

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, risk 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 technologists.

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 careers.

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 editor@fin24.com and you could get published.

Previous women's month columns:

The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant

In the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar

Get your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group

Manage like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore

Four tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at Futuregrowth

Women a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest

Don't be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group

 

* Follow Fin24 on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

 
workplace  |  women
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