Profile: Bristol Girl Geek Dinners

A monthly event for women interested in engineering and technology
26th February 2015

Bristol Girl Geek Dinners is a regular event for women interested in engineering and technology. They meet once a month to enjoy food, conversation and a talk by an inspiring speaker.

Origins of Girl Geek dinners

Bristol Girl Geek Dinners was one of the first groups of its kind for women in Bristol. The original Girl Geek Dinner concept was founded in 2005 in London as a result of girl geek Sarah Lamb‘s frustration at being one of the only females at many tech events; she wanted to meet more like-minded people and not have to justify why she was there.

Co-organiser of the Bristol-based group, Ali Flind, explains: “I first heard about Girl Geek Dinners at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) event in early 2010 and decided it would be good to start a local group in Bristol. I discovered that a student from Bristol University had the same idea and was just starting up a Bristol group so I introduced myself and together we started organising the events. After she graduated and moved away I took over the running of the group and got some of the other group members to help me to keep it going.”

bristol-geek-girl-dinners-event-2010

Talking tech: The first Bristol Girl Geek Dinner

Ali works with Claire Walkley from Microsoft, and Serrie-Justine Chapman, an engineer from TVS, on hosting the free monthly events and finding inspiring female speakers. Over the past five years there have been many great events, with incredible speakers from the likes of Nokia, Airbus, Bloodhound, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Brightpearl, Infineon and the Pervasive Media Studio.

Impressive guest speakers

sammy-payne-at-bristol-geek-girl-dinnersJust this month, Samantha Payne (pictured left), recently shortlisted for the Women in Business’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and runner-up in Intel’s international Make it Wearable competition, presented Open Bionics‘ revolutionary 3D printed prosthetic robot hand.

And earlier in the year, Dr Kerstin Eder of Bristol University – a Reader in Design Automation and Verification who was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Excellence in Engineering prize and manages a portfolio of active research grants valued in excess of £2M – gave a talk entitled Whole Systems Energy Transparency (or: More Power to Software Developers!).

And much more is planned for the future of Bristol Girl Geek Dinners.

“You don’t have to have a PhD in rocket science or work in the tech industry – you might just be interested in a certain topic or a particular speaker”

 

So, if you’re a woman who’s interested in science, technology, engineering, maths and other ‘geeky’ things, this could be a great way to learn more and find some like-minded people.

ali-flind-bristol-geek-dinners“You don’t have to have a PhD in rocket science or work in the tech industry – you might just be interested in a certain topic or a particular speaker,” says Ali (pictured left).

“People are geeky in different ways. We don’t judge people and we’re a very friendly bunch. I like to think it’s the sort of thing you could show up to on your own and everyone will talk to you.”

“It’s a great opportunity to network with different professionals, take a peek inside different organisations, be inspired and share ideas”

 

The monthly events are usually sponsored and hosted by various tech industries throughout Bristol who also provide food and drink. “It’s a great opportunity to network with different professionals, take a peek inside different organisations, be inspired and share ideas,” explains Ali.

Academic connections

The group also host events at Bristol University and UWE at least once a year so it’s a great opportunity to forge connections between academia and industry as well.

“I found Bristol Girl Geek Dinners to be a very supportive environment when I was studying for my PhD too,” says Ali. “I had people saying things like, ‘I’d love to read your thesis’. Which never happened to me before!”

The three organisers also have their hands busy inbetween meetups, with lively discussions on the Facebook Group and Twitter feed too, where they share info about women in STEM, job opportunities, events and other tech news through these channels.

Eat, drink and geek

One of the misconceptions about the group is that they are sexist, but men are more than welcome. “We’re a feminist group, we are into equality so men are not excluded, but they must be accompanied by a girl geek so that there is an equal gender split,” says Ali.

“It’s great to be able to talk about really technical things with other girls”

 

Alongside the Bristol Girl Geek group, Ali is a member of Ladies that UX. And she asserts that, with Bristol and Bath both fast-growing their tech base, there’s never been a better time to get involved: “There’s also a Bristol chapter of Women who Code and a Bath Girl Geek Dinners Group and lots of interesting hackathons and meetups for different tech groups, so it’s a great time to be a girl geek in Bristol.”

Thanks to Ali Flind for taking the time to talk to us. If you’d like to know more you can visit the Bristol Girl Geek Dinners website. You can also join the new Meetup group to sign up for the next event. You may also be interested in Bath Girl Geeks the Bath-based version of Girl Geek Dinners.