Tag Archives: meetups

Geek Girl’s Josefine Hedlund on getting women on the stage

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Josefine Hedlund has never been afraid to experiment. As a little girl, whenever the TV broke down in the Hedlund family home, her dad would ask her to fix it, by poking and prodding at buttons to see what they might do, even though the “more natural” option might’ve been for her father to do it himself, as she says, laughing.

I’ve never been afraid of technology. I’ve always been happy to learn things.

The 31 year-old Swede founded Geek Girl Meetup in London in order to spread that confidence to other women. The organisation, originally founded in Sweden, holds regular networking events for women working in tech, and promotes female role models in the industry.

Getting women onto the stage

Geek Girls London chapter’s third anniversary is coming up, and Josefine has met with me to talk about the lack of diversity in the tech industry. Only 2 in 10 tech employees are women, an issue that hits close to heart for her, as a feminist working in the tech industry. For the past four years, she’s been at digital agency AnalogFolk, and is now a senior producer.

Sitting in the agency’s painfully cool open-plan offices, we’re surrounded by men. This is hardly a new situation for Josefine Hedlund, who says that she’s regularly the only woman in meetings.

A Geek Girl Meetup in September 2014.

A Geek Girl Meetup in September 2014. (Photo: Alessia D’Urso/ Flickr)

“I almost don’t want to say it, but I think it’s about confidence. Girls think they can’t do it,” she says.

Combating this lack of confidence is the driving force behind Geek Girl.

Thinking back to why Geek Girl was founded, she remembers going to tech conferences without a single female speaker.

“And we thought, ‘we know lots of great women in this industry. Where are they? Why aren’t they on the stage?’”

Starting at an early age

With Geek Girl, she encourages other women to get up on that stage. So does she happily get up and speak herself?

“I’m getting better. I don’t like to stand up and talk in front of people, but I force myself to do it. And it does get easier the more you do it.”

Josefine Hedlund Geek Girl by Sofia Villanueva

Josefine Hedlund (Photo: Sofia Villanueva for 1984 London)

A big part of tech’s diversity problem stems from women getting discouraged early on, she says, with young girls being made to take sewing rather than coding in school. Luckily for Josefine and her older sister, their parents were always encouraging.

“There was never anything strange about us being interested in technology, or sitting in front of the computer, playing Pacman or chatting on IRC,” she says.

“I think I’m quite confident as a person today. I’ve had a safe childhood, and was often in a leadership role, so I feel comfortable taking up space.”

Feminism “feels like a harsher word here”

Josefine has been living in London for almost five years. But she grew up in Sweden, where she says gender inequality is less of an issue.

“Everything is more divided in the UK than it is in Sweden. Even kids are divided, into girls’ and boys’ schools, and girls’ and boys’ sports.”

For Josefine, who likes to relax by playing football, this has caused some raised eyebrows amongst colleagues who were surprised she hadn’t grown up playing netball instead.

Calling herself a feminist feels different in the UK too, she says.

“It feels like a harsher word here. There still seems to be this vision of the ‘man-hating feminist’ cropping up.”

What makes a role model?

With Geek Girl, she certainly takes a more positive approach. It’s about promoting female role models. Josefine’s own role models are Heidi Harman, Geek Girl’s original founder, and Alice Bentinck, founder of several Silicon Roundabout start-ups.

And being a role model isn’t just about doing good.

“It’s also someone who’s good at talking about the mistakes they’ve made and the experience they’ve gained from making those mistakes.”

So has Josefine made any mistakes of her own? “Oh, tonnes!” she says, laughing.

It’s all about daring to experiment.

The best London meetups for every woman in tech

Brynn Evans, design lead at Google, in an interview  with Women Techmakers

(Photo: Brynn Evans, design lead at Google, during an interview with Google Women Techmakers)

One of the best things about the Internet is how easy it makes for people to gather around a subject and work together. The Internet is great for sharing and for collaboration and meetups are even better for building a face-to-face community.

These meetings can be practical workshops, lightning talks or networking opportunities. For London-based readers, Project Ada has put together a list of five communities and four free meetups we know every tech girl would love to attend.

Here is our selection:

Women Who Code

This professional community gathers more than 20,000 women developers from 15 countries and its goal is to connect 1 million women in tech careers. Its meetup community in London has more than 900 coders and their events are aimed to put developers in touch with companies and to help non-developers who want to learn how to code. The events are exclusively for female participants.

Next event: “An Evening with Salesforce + Lightning Talks“, Wednesday, 25 February.

There will be speakers from the CRM software company Salesforce and lightning talks from guests speakers. Confirmed names include Nicola Aitken, an API integrations engineer at Geckoboard; and Claire Tran, a software engineer. Nicola will be talking about the things she wishes she had known before she started her first developer job. Claire will look into some techniques that can be applied to Ruby on Rails app.

Super Women at Twitter

The group, under the acronym SWAT, says its goal is to share content and resources to empower women to be leaders in the workforce around the world. You can stay updated with their work and events here.

Next event: “Super Women in Tech London“, Wednesday, 18th February.

A panel of tech leaders that will share their experiences and thoughts on issues faced by women in the industry. Some of the panelists are Alice Bentinck, co-founder of Entrepreneur First and Code First:Girls; and Wendy Orr, product manager at Guardian News & Media. The event is full, but there is a waiting list. Sign up here.

Girls in Tech London

The community aims to support and raise the visibility of women in technology, entrepreneurship and innovation. Their activities include monthly events and leadership programmes. They haven’t announced future events yet. To stay updated to their activities you can join their online community or their mailing list. Their latest event was about the intersection between dating and technology.

Google Women Techmakers

Women Techmakers is Google’s global program and brand for women in technology. It was kicked off in 2012 by Megan Smith, then VP of Google[x], a semi-secret facility inside the company. Now Women Techmakers is led by Natalie Villalobos and a global team of Googlers who are passionate about empowering women in technology through increased visibility, community, and resources. They host summits and meet ups around the world.

Next event: International Women’s Day Event in partnership with Google Women Techmakers”, Monday, 30 March.

To celebrate the International Women’s Day event, Google Women Techmakers partnered with Woman Who Code for a summit. The activities for this event haven’t been announced yet, but those interested in a place can apply now. Applications close on 20 February. 

W Kollective – Digitally Savvy Women

The community is dedicated to women in digital, technology and startups. The group, founded by Laurie Wang, has 332 members. Their goal is to inspire, educate, empower and create networking opportunities for women making their mark in the digital space. The community promotes talks, debates and parties.

Next event: Defining a Digital Content Strategy That Works“, Wednesday 11 March.

The event is designed for content and community managers who want to plan content in a more strategic way. The speaker is Nichola Stott, managing director of theMediaFlow. She will cover aspects as campaign planning, measuring success and good practices in content marketing.

Ladies that UX

The London chapter of Ladies that UX was set up in January 2014 and is part of the global Ladies that UX group. It works as a collaborative community of women looking forward to push the boundaries and promote the role of women within UX.

The chapter is led by Sophie Mitchell and Georgie Bottomley and is opened to those already working in UX or for those looking to make the move. Over a year, the global group has brought together more than 600 London Ladies at over 13 events including partnering with some of the top UX Conferences.

Monthly events include user-led talks, inspirational panel discussions, lightning talks, and workshops. According to the group, events have been planned up until the end of 2015. For those interested, email Ladies that UX at london@ladiesthatux.com to join their mailing list or follow them o Twitter at @LadiesthatUX_LN.