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Posted at 12:59 PM ET, 03/28/2012

Where have all the women gone?: ‘Girls in Tech’ seeks to bring more women into technology sector

This piece originally appeared on the WaPo Labs Blog on March 28.WaPo Labs is the digital team at the Washington Post Company focused on innovation and experimenting with emerging technologies.


A women passes a poster explaining the OPERA experiment at the Laboratory for High Energy Physics at the University of Bern September 23, 2011. (PASCAL LAUENER - REUTERS)

When I first met Adriana Gascoigne in 2006, she was managing public relations for an online-video company I had joined (that was not, unfortunately, the soon-to-be-acquired YouTube). She stood out from the crowd because of her overwhelmingly positive energy, multilingual phone conversations, and because she was one of just three women in the 25-person office.

That gender ratio, Gascoigne realized, was a problem — she wasn’t alone in making that observation, but, unlike many, she decided to do something about it. A few months later, Gascoigne launched Girls in Tech, a group that offers networking events, seminars, and mentoring programs that currently reach 10,000 members in 30 chapters across the globe.

Five years after beginning the venture, and one month after opening a chapter in Singapore, her new base of operations, Gascoigne took time to answer a few questions about the persistent issue of gender diversity in tech.

What made you decide to create Girls in Tech?

Girls in Tech started out as a casual meeting of industry friends interested in pow-wowing about all things tech. This meeting was meant to be a sounding board for the minority in tech – women – to help answer questions, address any concerns in the workplace, bounce product feature ideas off of each other, etc. We were on a mission to give female developers, designers, and marketers a voice and encourage the younger generation to embrace technology and the startup world as a viable career path.

Was there one specific incident that made you realize there was a need for organizations like this?

I wouldn’t call in an incident per se; it was more of a mass realization or an “ah-ha” moment, which made me open my eyes to a society that was not encouraging girls and women to enter into the technology field. A female perspective on product development, venture capital investments, and social entrepreneurship is crucial to the balance and advancement of innovation in both developed and underdeveloped geos.

What is the tech scene like in Singapore?

The Singaporean tech community needs a leadership injection. I believe that some of the smartest people in the world live in Singapore and are fully capable of launching their own startups and developing interesting and innovative products. However, the culture here underscores and aligns credibility and honor with graduating from a prestigious college and jumping headfirst into a multinational corporation. It is almost frowned upon to take such a risk as starting a company. Embracing risk will enable people to become more entrepreneurial, innovative, and leadership-oriented.

What’s one piece of advice you would offer to women starting out in the tech industry?

Don’t be afraid to ask for favors. Typically, women take on a lot of the responsibility in creating a perfectionist environment, doing everything independently, juggling a variety of tasks while keeping their poker face on. But there are people out there who have already built successful businesses who can provide advice, guidance, and resources to them, happily. Asking for favors is part of the entrepreneurial package and mentors love to provide information and resources to those who are eager and ballsy enough to ask for it.

To learn more about Adriana Gascoigne’s and her work, check out the Girls in Techwebsite.

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By T.J. DeGroat  |  12:59 PM ET, 03/28/2012

Categories:  Business, Education, Technology

 
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