Are Drones Encouraging Women To Embrace Tech?

Post by Guest Contributor, Roger Timbrook.


Let’s face it. Embracing technology and being a geek is not something women are “supposed to do”, right?

But, if we believed everything the world told us then maybe we would not know the Earth rotated around the sun (and not vice versa) or that it is not in fact flat. So, it is clear we have to buck the trends to make big things happen. Even today.

That is why I believe that drones are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to encouraging women to get into tech.

How exactly are drones making this happen? Here are three ways I can see drones helping…


“Rock On!”

Con Prep: Top Tech Tips for Your Next Convention

Con Prep is a new series of blog pieces providing tips, suggestions and other ideas as to help you prepare for convention season. 

This piece was written by Guest Contributor Cassie Tolhurst.

Convention season is coming, and along with it, people dressed as Daenerys, Arya, and Sansa. You’ll see other characters too—some from galaxies far, far away or from universes yet unknown to the common person. Others descend from on high, ascend from down low, or step out of cities somehow twistedly familiar. You, as the duly appointed representative of planet Earth, recognize them all and herald their arrival at comic conventions every fall.

Regardless of where the characters usually dwell, their on-screen or in-book depictions claim an ability you don’t: immunity to the need for connectivity. Fortunately, the eleven tech tips listed here can grant you that power. Some you already know from attending gaming or comic book conventions in the past. Others will provide practical inspiration for the upcoming convention season.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

Women Love Pi: Training Young Women in Computer Technology Through Raspberry Pi

By Samantha Lee Donaldson, a guest writer for GeekGirlCon

In 1992, only 21% of individuals coming from families with annual incomes of $25,000 or less qualified for admission to a four-year university, and only . 8% were minority graduates. Unfortunately, the numbers have not changed nearly enough in the last decade. However, with a significant increase in female college enrollment since the 1970s and the rise of women in technology, the ability to teach skills to students from low-income neighborhoods then can be utilized to help them succeed in life on a much larger scale is extremely enticing.

Therefore, when Eben Upton and a group of his colleagues at the University of Cambridge decided to create a cheap and efficient computer that could be used to show children the power of code and computer technology, the game was changed forever. Thus, the Raspberry Pi was born.

Guest Contributor
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Purple and Nine Teaches Tween Girls about Technology

Written by GeekGirlCon Copywriter JC Lau

In the past few years, there have happily been more instances of games and toys for girls that relate to science and technology. Goldieblox is a well-known one, but Girls who Code and Techbridge, for example, are programs to teach girls about coding and software development. In that vein is Purple and Nine, an animated webseries and comic book series aimed at girls aged 8-12.

Purple and Nine was developed by Gangly Sister, a group of parents who were concerned with the representation of girls in the media, specifically the “stereotypes of girls who are interested only in boys, fashion, and celebrity. We wanted to show girls that they could be anything, and create the heroines we believe today’s media is missing.”

The show and comic series follow the adventures of Purple and Nine, two ten year old best friends. According to the website, “Purple and Nine is about creating inspiring role models for children and teaching them why technology would be a good career path. We aren’t telling girls (or boys) “you can do it”. Of course they can. But why should they? Why would they want to? Purple and Nine shows examples of how technology can save the world.”

Purple and Nine discover Ferret. Image source: Gangly Sister

Purple and Nine discover Ferret. Image source: Gangly Sister

However, Purple and Nine are not simply two geeky girls who know how to use a computer; the show also addresses social issues and interpersonal relationships. For example, in the first episode, Purple tries to use a 3D printer to recreate her father’s chess set. As the girls research how to make the chess pieces, they discover that the chess set was made using child labor overseas. This raises a series of moral questions about where their products come from, and what the difference is between Purple and Nine making a chess set using a 3D printer, and when children overseas are also making chess sets.

Although I’m outside the demographic for the show, I found it to raise a lot of interesting questions. The show also introduces Ferret, who is (unsurprisingly) a ferret that quotes information from the internet. As Purple and Nine have questions, Ferret answers them. I imagine that this would encourage kids to do their own research and find out the answers to their questions for themselves. Gangly Sister also are launching a Purple and Nine digital comic series this month, so it would be interesting to see how the series expands to cater to the ever-growing demand for girls in technology.

Want to see for yourself? Watch the first episode here!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Live Blog: Tech Jobs You Never Knew You Wanted

Hey everyone. We are in Room 204 for Tech Jobs You Never Knew You Wanted. Here is the description for this panel.

Tech Jobs You Never Knew You Wanted – RM204
As professional women in technology, many of us are in positions we never knew existed when we
started working. Bridging the gap can be difficult if you don’t know where to start or where to go. Panelists
include engineers and a database administrator from Twitter, a network engineer from Wikimedia, CEO
and founder at Interface Guru, and a technical project manager at Arizona State University.
Presented by Lisa Phillips, Dana Contreras, Henna Kermani, Leslie Carr, Cia Romano, Nicole Phillips

The room is packed!

Lisa Phillips is introducing the panel: let’s talk about the technology jobs you do not often hear about in the media. The women on the panel have about 40 years in combined experience. One thing that unites these women: they all love their jobs. Lisa’s handle is @lisaphillips on Twitter.

Dana (@danadanger): Working as a programmer at Twitter, working on the infrastructure (the behind-the-scenes stuff). “We are like the Postal Service for your tweets.” <– Cute! Dana doesn’t have any formal training for tech at all; she is entirely self taught.

Henna: Software engineer at Twitter in international engineering (things that make Twitter work in other languages. Henna is the only one at this table with a computer science degree.

Leslie: Works for Wikimedia, the foundation for Wikipedia. She has also worked for Craigslist and Google.

Nicole: Went to Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in design studies. After graduating, Nicole started working in sales and technical support at GoDaddy. Moved up the ladder over four years, and now works as a business analyst at Arizona State.

QUESTION: Why computer and technology jobs? Why should women work in technology?


Leslie – I get to have pink hair, and nobody bats an eye when I interview. One of the great things about tech jobs is that you get a lot of flexibility to work from home, or work ANYWHERE. “I can work a few days from Europe if I’m on vacation.” (That sounds like magic!).

Dana – Because technology companies are always working on leading-edge stuff and people are trying to come up with new ways to think about things, that applies to business environments as well and how businesses treat employees. At Twitter, we have an open vacation policy (Susie’s note: I know Netflix does this as well).

Lisa – I have worked for a San Francisco-based company for many years (I think I heard 12 years), but have only had to work in San Francisco for two of those years. Women aren’t having to choose between children and their jobs.

Leslie – Because Wikimedia is a nonprofit, we don’t feel pressure to work insane hours. If I say I have to get something done, I get it done … but my boss never pressures me to work until midnight. “I keep fixing things, so fewer things go wrong. And then when something does go wrong, it is a challenge and I find it exciting.” <– I paraphrased, but great quote.

QUESTION: Where do you learn to do the coding / technology skills on your own?


Lisa – In the U.S. right now, only a few states allow computer science to count toward your graduation requirements in high school.

Henna – I had done no coding until college. I have always been interested in computers, but I was always more of a book nerd. I was always interested in learning what was going on behind the scenes with computers, and that’s why I chose a computer science program. I felt like I was competing with boys who had been coding since they were 4. But I found that other boys in my classes felt that way also, as some of these boys hadn’t been coding since birth.

Lisa – A network of smart people is key. People who excel in tech are able to be okay being around people who are smarter than them. I started at an ISP (several on the panel has ISP backgrounds). There, I was given the opportunity to learn from my peers and took advantage of every opportunity. Take on projects you didn’t think you could take on. Be okay with making mistakes.

Nicole – A study found that women tend to be over-mentored. It is important to draw distinction between someone who is a mentor for you, and someone who is an advocate. A mentor is focused on giving you advice; an advocate is someone who is going to go to bat for you at a particular organization.

Leslie – Tech support is a great place to start. You get to talk to a lot of parts of your organization. This gives you the opportunity to ask people if you can learn about their jobs. You learn, and then those people no longer have to do X task. A great tip!

Another great tip from Lisa: Don’t worry about not having the qualifications that match the job skill postings 100 percent. You do not have to match the requirements exactly. Don’t be scared by that! Send your resume in for jobs if you really want to work for the company. Highlight where your experience matches their company and the job posting.

(2:00 p.m. – This blogger has to run, but hope everyone enjoys the rest of the panel)

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

GeekGirlCon ’12 Preview: Lady Coders

In one of our last GeekGirlCon ‘12 previews, we want to tell you about some amazing Lady Coders: Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack, Liz Dahlstrom, and Lorraine Sawiki — all female programmers.

This dynamic trio has launched a new organization, LadyCoders, which will provide seminars and trainings that help women land jobs in a technical field. They even have a Kickstarter project that ends August 14, which they are hoping will help jumpstart some of this work.

The Lady Coders are also hosting a panel at GeekGIrlCon ‘12, “A Career as a Lady Coder II: Getting the Job.” It is a follow-up to a panel hosted at last year’s convention, which focused on what it is like to code for a living and how to succeed. This year, panelists want to help you get the job. They have also added a computer science student to help show technical geeks of all types how to get on a solid path toward a rewarding programming position.

You can catch this panel on Saturday from 2:30 – 3:20 p.m. in Room 301/302.

We caught up with the panelists, and they graciously agreed to answer a few of our questions. Check out their answers below!

1: Okay, first off, we have to ask – what are you all geeky about right now?

Liz: I have a strong desire to hack into my DEFCON badge and figure out how it works!

Lorraine: I have an idea for an arduino sculpture to put in my front yard garden. I love combining my tech skills with my passions, so I’ve been getting a lot of satisfaction working on an android app as well when I have the time. I also had a blast creating the logo and web design for LadyCoders!

Tarah: I just got back from DEFCON and have discovered a newfound joy in lockpicking and cryptography. I’m also big into modifying and improving operating systems, and I am trying to match the perfect Android flavor (Vegan Tab, CM9, etc) to my gTablet. Mostly, though, I’m nerding out over the original Sandman run; I bought the original TPBs in the early 90s, but they got ripped off before I could finish them. That’s what my tablet is for now: it is a very nifty and highly specialized comic book reading machine.

2: How did you meet?

Tarah: I am a tanguera–a tango dancer. A few years ago, I met a great dancer and I keep running into him every so often; he’s a Sharepoint dev, so we keep in touch. He introduced me to Liz, who was also doing some Sharepoint work at that time, and Liz and I hit it off as developers and buddies. When I had the original idea to hold a panel at GeekGirlCon to show young women what being a software developer was like, Liz was the first person I called–and frankly, the only one. She was the only other senior software developer I knew.

Lorraine: I saw the name for Tarah’s panel at last year’s GeekGirlCon, and I thought it would be an awesome domain to build a lady-oriented technology site around. Tarah looked up a few months later and was surprised that someone in Seattle, let alone another lady in tech, owned it! We met at a coffee shop and briefly discussed our interests. Afterwards, Tarah sent a quick intro to Liz that said something along the lines of “I found us a new friend!” Less than a month later, I emailed both Liz and Tarah, and even though I hardly knew them I went with my gut and proposed we start a project together. After that there was an energy and flow to our ideas, leading to our Kickstarter campaign as well as a number of other ideas for the future.

3: What has been the most rewarding thing about working together?

Lorraine: I’ve rarely worked with women on the same team, and I’ve never worked in an all-ladies tech team before! It’s been awesome to share our experiences and knowledge with each other. We also have rather varied skills, so I think we’ll be learning from each other as well.

Tarah: I would say it’s the way we pick up the reins effortlessly from each other when there’s a problem or a hitch. We all assume that the other two are competent and hardworking, and that we all have different specialties. As a result, there’s no hurt feelings or issues when someone has more experience or ability in a certain area, and they take the lead. We assume that the others have skills and abilities that we do not; I would never tell Lorraine how to design perfect UX or Liz how to create a DB structure, even though I know both of those things to some extent. They are better at them.

4: What are some obstacles each of you have faced in your individual careers and how have you overcome them?

Lorraine: There are so many things that I wish I could share with the younger version of myself. That the flexibility I so desired with my career would eventually work out. That there are multiple paths in a tech career, ranging from a traditional 9-5, to freelancing, and possibly a startup! That my desire to wear certain outfits expressed naivety more than individuality. I also didn’t know how to negotiate for a higher salary or deal with overly demanding freelancing clients. I overcame a lot of this by making good friends in the tech industry, and through the friendships getting a great ego boost about my own skills and what I’m worth.

Tarah: Often, women ask me about some of the sexual harassment I’ve had to deal with, and they’re surprised when I tell them that I have never experienced actual sexual harassment in the tech workplace…absolutely none. I have, however, seen the effects of sexism. They’re very different creatures; sexism has more to do with an unconscious assumption of incompetence than anything overt.

I know that there are at least three jobs that I have not been promoted into or gotten simply because I’m female, and the assumption was that I could not handle a team of male developers. So, I did an end run around many of the neolithic attitudes I saw by simply declaring victory and forming my own company. If I’d known how rewarding it was, I would have done it sooner. Besides, the fault usually lies on the part of sexist execs and hiring managers, not developers. Some of my best friends are male developers 😉 I guess the final lesson is that I stopped thinking of sexist hiring managers as obstacles to my career, and started thinking of them as the people who are leaving solid, hardcore programming talent on the table for me to scoop up.

5. What sort of messages are you hoping to share through your participation at GeekGirlCon ’12?

Tara, Lorraine, and Liz: Lady geeks make great friends! 🙂 Your choices are your own. We’re going to show you that you have more choices than you thought you did. After that, it’s up to you.

Thanks, Lady Coders! Don’t forget to catch their panel this Sunday.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

Fact or Fiction: Geek Girls and Technology

In the second installment of our Fact or Fiction series, we are tackling Geek Girls and Technology. Today, we’re going to attempt to answer the question: Fact or Fiction: Women use technology as much as men?

First, let’s dive into some facts on technology. Tech jobs are predicted to grow at a faster rate than all other job fields. The United States Department of Labor estimates that, by 2018, there will be more than 1.4 million total new computing-related job openings.

Yet, according to the National Center for Women in Information Technology, women won’t fill the majority of these jobs unless significant changes are made.

In 2010, women earned 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, yet only earned 18 percent of computer and information science bachelor’s degrees—down from 37 percent in 1985. Yes, that percentage went down in the last 30 years.

Additionally, those who do enter the technology field leave at high rates. According to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, 56 percent of technical women leave at the “mid-level” career point. This is more than double the quit rate for men. It is also higher than the quit rate for women in science and engineering.

These stats are particularly interesting when compared to the fact that women are the fastest-growing technology market and they rule the social media world.

According to an infographic by DigitalFlashNYC, 56 percent of social media users are women. That’s 81 million women blogging, tweeting, pinning, and posting to Facebook. What could you do with 81 million women? The infographic says you could fill every single sports stadium in the U.S. more than seven times over.

Intel researcher Genevieve Bell recently gave a summary of her tech research at Australia’s Radio National. The Atlantic covered her talk in an article titled, “Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech.” Here’s part of what Bell revealed:

When you look at internet usage, it turns out women in Western countries use the internet 17 percent more every month than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to be using the mobile phones they own, they spend more time talking on them, they spend more time using location-based services. But they also spend more time sending text messages. Women are the fastest growing and largest users on Skype, and that’s mostly younger women. Women are the fastest category and biggest users on every social networking site with the exception of LinkedIn. Women are the vast majority owners of all internet enabled devices—readers, healthcare devices, GPS—that whole bundle of technology is mostly owned by women.

It is not just younger generations of women who are contributing to this rise. Look at the rise and power of mommy bloggers. About 3.9 million moms in the United States identify as bloggers, and BlogHer, the largest community of women who blog, receives 40 million unique visitors per month. Check out this infographic posted on Mashable for more facts on mommy bloggers.

The Atlantic article goes on to ask, given this information, why do tech marketers continue to target men? One big reason is the lack of women at major venture capital firms, startups, electronics makers, and Internet companies. For example, Twitter just hired its latest batch of interns, and a photo from Twitter Co-founder Jack Dorsey reveals there was not a single woman in the crew.

But there are signs of progress. Facebook recently named its first woman, Sheryl Sandberg, to its board. A new organization, Girls Who Code, just started a program for 20 high-school-age girls, who will learn how to build websites and mobile apps and start their own companies.

And there are local organizations like IGNITE, GeekGirlCon, and Washington STEM—organizations working to bring girls together and empower them to be technology leaders.

You’ll see many women who are currently leaders in technology at our convention. From panels on the latest technology in medicine, to effective podcasting and video-blog techniques, or how you create a great user experience (UX) on your website, convention guests will be able to explore their role in technology.

Interested in pursuing a tech career? Come to GeekGirlCon ‘12 and explore our GeekGirlConnections room, where you’ll be able to network and interact with women who work in technology fields. Or stop into Lisa Phillips’ panel on Sunday to learn about the “Tech Jobs You Never Knew You Wanted.” (Get your passes here, and stay tuned to our website for our full programming.)

So, do women use technology as much as men? The answer: it’s complicated. Women do use technology tools more often, but still don’t fill the majority of bachelor’s degrees or technology roles at major companies.

What’s your favorite way to use technology—is it on social media, programming, building databases, etc.? Let us know in the comments!

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

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