Whether sipping espresso over stories about work and hobbies or gathered around laptops debating the intricacies of GIT and version control syntax, the women of last weekend’s She’s Geeky unConference made possible an important milestone for the Minnesota high tech community: the first all-female gathering focused on STEM professional development.
Over two days at the Science Museum of Minnesota, women and girls gathered to discuss everything from managing one’s personal identity online to web analytics to entrepreneurship.
Most importantly, it wasn’t just any old conference. The Open Space Technology format made for a relaxed schedule full of timely and interesting topics. Personal style consultants Sasha Westin and Gretchen Ditto led sessions on professional dress, wardrobe management and making good first impressions.
And there were small touches – like a free espresso cart, and yogurt & granola parfaits in the breakfast line – that made the event feel more like a weekend retreat with girlfriends than a conference.
This is, I think, an important point: women in STEM careers need the opportunity to share ideas and meet women with similar experiences, for which an event like this is perfect. Of course professional development component is important, too – and it was certainly present at She’s Geeky.
But at a time when the numbers of women in STEM careers are falling and the gender gap is wide when it comes to technology entrepreneurship, this event serves a need by facilitating connections and helping women support one another in their professional pursuits.
I hear the organizers are planning another She’s Geeky Twin Cities in 2011, and I hope it will be as interesting and fun experience as the first. A larger crowd of diverse industries and ages will only add to the value. Our tech community should be proud to be the first non-coastal city to host a She’s Geeky unConference – and keep your eyes on all the women who attended, they’re doing great things.
For additional perspectives on the event, check out these blog posts by attendees and sponsoring organizations: