Girls in Tech eye wider role for women in the workplace – The Irish Times

It is rare that you find an organisation that is hoping, one day, to put itself out of existence. But that is what Girls in Tech is hoping to do.

“The one of the major differentiating factor between Girls in Tech and most other organisations is that for us, our eventual goal is to not exist. We want there to be a day where there doesn’t need to be a Girls in Tech,” says Coral Movasseli, managing director of the Irish chapter of the global organisation.

“If you think about it, there isn’t a Boys in Tech organisation. If there is, I don’t know about it. I have no idea. But that’s not prevalent. That’s not pervasive. So we want to not exist.”

Encouraging more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths is a question that has been asked many times in recent years, as the tech industry battles with its diversity issues.

A dedicated platform for women in tech and entrepreneurs, Girls in Tech as an organisation was started in San Francisco in 2007 by Adriana Gascoigne. Initially, it was a way for Gascoigne to network with other women in technology; it expanded into something much bigger, trying to educate, engage and empower women.

It is now a support network to help women advance their careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths, known colloquially as Stem.

The organisation has a number of programmes that it uses to achieve these goals, such as its mentorship programmes, its stepping up programmes and the hacking for humanity programme. And it’s not all about gender.

“We are a platform for women, but we’re about promoting equality, about human rights about access. And what that means is it trickles down to how we operate and how we think of our programme, in the sense that we don’t exclude men from the conversation,” she explains.

“We are pragmatic and create programmes instead of focusing on the problems. And we make sure that we are constantly engaged in all the different inequities that cross linked with gender, for example, race, disability, economic status . . . We consider all of those things as well.”

For Movasseli, a career in Stem wasn’t her first choice. She studied politics and political science at university before making her way into tech, but her love of tech was a lifelong thing.

“I didn’t go into the sciences despite having graduated with honours from my high school, having As in calculus. I thought of engineering, as men wearing hard hats. I thought of it as civil engineering. I didn’t really have the breadth to know what my options were,” she explains. “In my family, no one was an engineer. My dad was in the healthcare business. My mom was a homemaker, I didn’t really have that level of understanding of what my options were.”

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She describes it as being part of “a leaky pipeline of women”.

“The women were gamers, were already coding at a young age, were already exposed to technology, and had the grades to get into engineering, science. But they didn’t go into Stem, because they didn’t see themselves there. They didn’t know what the opportunities were,” she says.

She says there is a misunderstanding about the nature of jobs in the Stem fields. “It’s not just coding for 10 hours a day. It’s helping people who have disabilities navigate the city. It’s making an impact in people’s everyday lives. Technology is a tool. And what you’re studying in Stem is a tool.”

Had she had that information, she says, things would have been different, although she doesn’t regret her time studying comparative politics as it gave her a “different lens” that she wouldn’t trade.


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