Calling all girl geeks! She’s Geeky unConference makes its first Midwest stop in the Twin Cities

by Lauren Melcher

She's Geeky unConference in Minneapolis MinnesotaShe’s Geeky – the unConference designed to “inspire women technologists for the future and advance systemic change in tech culture” – is coming to Minnesota on August 6 & 7th, marking the first time the event will take place outside either coast.

Why Minnesota? Mostly thanks to the persistent efforts of Elizabeth Tupper, who attended last November’s She’s Geeky unConference in Washington D.C. with the goal of bringing it to her home state.

“We’ve been trying to build a women’s technology group, and it just wasn’t moving as quickly as we wanted it to,” says Tupper, who attended the D.C. conference with fellow self-proclaimed geek Jacque Urick. “It was such a phenomenal experience, to be surrounded by other smart women who had such amazing stories. We’re so often outnumbered in our profession. We need this kind of event to support, educate and inspire women in technology,” explains Tupper.

Tupper and Urick became the first conference attendees to win the blessing of the original She’s Geeky organizers and plan an event in their own state. “We wanted them to realize that we’re not a flyover state,” says Tupper, “and that there is a community of women in tech here that needs our support.”

Now, with the help of She’s Geeky organizers (who convened the first Bay Area event in 2007), Tupper is planning the first She’s Geeky Twin Cities unConference as a two-day event at the Science Museum of Minnesota. It is open to women and girls in all areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)– as well as gamers, coders, designers, IT administrators, and non-professionals who just have a passion for technology.

“So far, the response has been amazing,” says Tupper. “Everywhere I go, people have already heard about the unConference.” They’ve already sold about half the available seats, which are available through the group’s EventBrite page. There is discount pricing available for girls so that women can bring their daughters, nieces and mentees, and Tupper says a number of young women have already taken advantage of the opportunity.

Aside from the first of its kind in the Midwest, the unConference is unique in format. “At an unConference, the attendees set the agenda,” Tupper explains. “When you arrive, everyone sits around a big white board and suggests topics. People can give prepared presentations or discuss issues on the spot. The point is that we talk about what the attendees want to talk about.”

Heidi Nobantu Saul from the She’s Geeky team in Northern California has been helping Tupper prepare for this first event. “They’ve provided so much support – from FAQs for the volunteers to information about the layout to language for reaching out to sponsors,” says Tupper. The Twin Cities event has four major sponsors so far: the Science Museum of Minnesota and Clockwork Active Media Systems at the corporate level, and Fabuliss and Minnebar at the community level.

With capacity for about 100 attendees each day of the unConference, Tupper says she’s looking forward to inspiring discussions and lots of connections between women interested in technology. “We hope this will be a big conference someday, but for now we like that it’s a grassroots sort of thing,” she explains. “Right now we’re focusing on building a remarkable event for 2010 and generating momentum for the future.”