The Girl Geek Dinners are very popular in the Bay Area, Seattle but also in Europe in Germany, Belgium, Italy and the UK. Local editions of the dinners are organized world wide by volunteers and Melanie Rieback and Donna Metzlar started organizing the first Dutch edition a few months ago. The first Amsterdam Girl Geek Dinner was held in the Flexbar last week.
The Amsterdam Girl Geek Dinner (GGD) is a social event that is intended to encourage women to explore science, technology, and other traditionally male-dominated areas. The idea behind the GGD is simple — we invite women who are kicking-ass in their respective fields, and we ask them to give an informal talk, where they can describe themselves and their work. This is followed by a Q&A session.
Without any real promotion or marketing it was a well attended event with thirty people. Not only women because men are allowed to join in but only if a female counterpart invites them. The format of the evening is a dinner followed by an informal talk by an invited speaker. I think it would be better to start with the informal talk followed by dinner because then you have something to talk about during dinner. The Flexbar is also probably not the best location to informally meet new people because of the rather cold atmosphere without real dining tables. It’s a club and not a restaurant and I missed sitting together at one big table which is more inviting to chat up with people you don’t know.
After dinner Fabienne Serriere gave an interesting and humorous talk on ‘Hardware Hacking on the Cheap.’ Serriere is a hardware hacker from Berlin who loves soldering things. This is not something a lot of women do, or dare to do, and she aims to demystify hardware. She showed us which gear she uses for her projects and encouraged the audience to try it. She revealed that being a girl definitely helps getting things across the border when she is traveling with her hardware in her bag. She was traveling with a black modem box with a bare motherboard inside, which is every border authority’s nightmare, but the guy just said “I’m glad it’s the same thing it says on the box!” I’m not too sure if it had to do with Serriere being a girl or with customs’ lack of technical knowledge. It reminded me of Michael Nygard’s hilarious but sad story on missing his flight because customs initially did not recognize his Macbook Air to be a laptop but a potentially dangerous “device.”
Donna Metzlar is not only one of tonight’s organizers but she is also behind The Genderchangers group in Amsterdam which organizes hardware and software courses for women only. A few years ago I took one of their hardware courses and ever since I feel perfectly comfortable taking apart my computer to plug in some extras. They also give workshops on a variety of subjects such as Privacy and Security, CSS for WordPress and Drupal or Build a Website with HTML and CSS.
The field of science and technology is enormous and provides a great amount of potentially great topics to cover in the future. I would love to hear female speakers in the field of programming, webdesign, information visualization, internet research, string theory or nanotechnology.