Posted March 14, 2016 | Industry Interviews, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Enigma People Meet Girl Geek Scotland

Enigma People Solutions recently attended the re-launch of Girl Geek Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered an inspiring talk on the importance of women’s roles in technology. Girl Geek Scotland is a community for women working with technology, digital media, business and creativity in Scotland. We spoke with Morna Simpson, the brains behind this community in Scotland to find out more:

Hi Morna! So what is Girl Geek Scotland?

“Girl Geek Scotland (GGS) is a network for women working with “Creativity, Computing and Enterprise”, in Scotland. GGS aims to develop a network of women, who are able to support each other at entry-level, and throughout their careers.

We primarily have dinner events, as we find these suit women’s networking style so well. We have also run Business Breakfasts, and workshops in programming, and start-up skills. Going forward we also aim to develop some scholarships in computing for women. It really is an economic imperative to get more women into tech related careers. The area is so male dominated and as a country we are already suffering from a skills deficit.”

How did you get involved in the community?

“I first heard about the Girl Geek Dinner network when I was working as a Lecturer of interaction design, at the University of Dundee in 2008. I think I must have been searching for events for women in my sector. I felt like I was constantly surrounded by men or people who ‘thought like men’, and I wanted to connect with other people who were just a bit more like me.

Like many people I thought Girl Geek Dinners, was a government, funded endeavour and I really thought that they should hold events in Scotland. So I contacted the founder Sarah Blow, and suggested she held events in Scotland. She got back in touch and said “Why don’t you do it.” It always makes me laugh to think about how arrogant I must have sounded, but she gave the right response. It was a fair cop!

So I flew down to London to attend an event myself and met up with Sarah. She gave me the “Girl Geek Dinner Rules of Engagement”, and a month or so later I reached out to a lot of people across universities and other organisations and the whole thing just snowballed.

We had our first event with only 30 people in early 2009. I asked an ex-student to design and build a website for us – which I paid for. Then kept my fingers crossed that we would sell enough tickets not to run at a loss.  

By 2010 we had a regular programme with international speakers in 4 Scottish cities, and were running workshops as well. The School of Informatics in Edinburgh became our parent organisation, and Informatic Ventures was a huge support.

Then I had an accident where I needed quite a bit of surgery, there were a lot of knock on issues so I was out of work for a number of months. We slowed things right down at GGS for a while and I was actually planning to shut the community down earlier this year. I ran some interviews on LinkedIn as a way of saying goodbye and soon discovered that there was a lot of goodwill towards us, and a hunger for our events. 

Jane Grant at Red Triangle and Napier University got in touch and offered their support in December so we have continued on with Napier taking over as parent organisation. It been a very rapid journey since, and I’m loving it!”

Tell us a bit more about the recent relaunch event in February?

“We have just had our relaunch with Nicola Sturgeon as guest of honour, announcing our new partnership with Napier University, Bright Red Triangle. Informatic Ventures once again demonstrated their support with sponsorship for the evening. The evening attracted around 150 delegates showing support and discussing ideas and plans for future success.

We dream big at Girl Geek Scotland and plan to have at least 3 of our ‘trademark’ Girl Geek Dinners and 2 workshops this year.” 

Nicola Sturgeon Girl Geek Scotland Interview

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon helps launch GGS and Napier’s new partnership

This is an exciting time for the growing technology industry in Scotland, however the gender imbalance is still holding businesses back. What, in your opinion, can the industry and employers do to help?

“The key thing people need to do is to educate themselves, in unconscious bias. Women have a different culture. They will select different role models, be inspired by different things, overcome their fears; and in every context, they will present themselves differently from men. The blending of work and family life is also more apparent in the way they tend to communicate. We all need to educate ourselves in the cultural differences in language, so that we can better understand each other.

Next, men must stop telling women that the reason they are not progressing is to do with a lack of confidence. That is an entirely unhelpful comment. Research has shown, that for many women lack skills and experience is the most likely obstacle to progression. This can often be the result of a career break, taken for maternity or childcare. Mentors tend to treat women differently than they treat men, and fail to tell them about this gap in their profiles, or how they can address it.

Imagine if a man had an accident, that resulted in a 5 year patchy career. It is normal for women to have 2 – 5 years when their career is patchy due to maternity and childcare. It’s not just that technology has moved on. Processes, working practice, suppliers, buyers and organisations have most likely moved on too. Most importantly your contacts have moved on, making a high level of performance impossible. You cannot expect women to hit the ground running if their career network has gone cold. Businesses need to do more to support women back into work.

Successful women can be unsurprisingly resentful, of being treated as ‘token’ speakers on topics around gender bias, when it is not their area of expertise.  Although many women want to give back to the community, it can be an extra pressure if they are always called on for this role.  Work and family are already a huge commitment. Then they are expected to come out with personal anecdotes – and these might not be things they want to share. It is far better to have women speak on topics in their area of expertise.”  


Morna currently works freelance as a Product Manager and Digital Strategist for a Nano Technology company, and developing Corporate Training in Business Analysis.

She started her career in textile design. Looking for a more intellectual challenge, she taught herself web design on a computer borrowed from a friend.  She found there was something incredibly comforting about coding, reminding her a lot of weaving, where she had a natural ability to see patterns in it. She began working for a digital agency, in a role, which would now be considered a blend of UX (design and code) and Product Management.  She then spent 8 years working in a lecturing and research post, in digital and interaction design, at a local university.

If you are interested in offering your financial support or volunteering to help at Girl Geek Scotland, please contact hello@girlgeekscotland.com or visit http://www.girlgeekscotland.com for more information.

Girl Geek Scotland (GGS) is a network for women working with “Creativity, Computing and Enterprise”, in Scotland. GGS aims to develop a network of women, who are able to support each other at entry-level, and throughout their careers, working at the intersection between these 3 key areas.

Although GGS markets its products towards women, it welcomes people of all gender identities, and particularly recognises the need to include men, who can offer support in working towards a gender balanced, career ecosystem.

Bright Red Triangle (BRT) is based at Edinburgh Napier University and offers a one-stop shop for extra-curricular student enterprise activities. Our offer is open to students, staff and graduates of Edinburgh Napier University, as well as local businesses.  We support innovation and enterprise and offer a range of pathways to connect our students, staff and alumni to the community through enterprise start-up activities, business support and consultancy services, and social innovation projects. Bright Red Triangle aims to positively impact our student experience, local businesses and the wider community.

Girl Geek Scotland Interview With Enigma People Solutions

Bright Red Triangle Girl Geek Scotland Enigma People Solutions

Additional Links

http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/tech/women-at-top-of-tech-sector-discuss-next-generation-1-4057661

http://futurescot.com/why-the-it-crowd-needs-more-women/

http://www.girlgeekscotland.com/first-minister-nicola-sturgeon-helps-launch-ggs-and-napiers-new-partnership/

http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/nerds-do-well-with-a-little-help-from-girl-geek-network-1-4061227

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