Every other Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the wonderful Tanya McGinnity…
Tanya McGinnity is proudly a geek and the founder of the Montreal Girl Geek Dinners, an offshoot of the London Girl Geek Dinners, started by Sarah Blow. With the desire to provide a welcoming atmosphere and platform for learning in an informal environment, the goal of these monthly events is to make technology accessible and interesting to all age groups and all people, particularly women.
What drives you to do what you do?
I’m driven by the desire to create a healthy geek ecosystem for everyone to participate in.
I’m especially inspired when I’m able to bring girls and women together to talk, learn and discover about ‘geek’ culture, so when I see folks in the Girl Geek community connect and share, it makes me feel that I have a positive impact in the community. For so long, I’d gone to tech events and was one of only a handful of girls in the room. Now I’m seeing girls in the group organize ‘tweetups’ before these kinds of events so they can get together and hang out with a group of gals who share similar interests.
For me ‘geek’ is defined as being incredibly passionate about a subject so speakers at our events have ranged from Drupal geniuses, bloggers, project managers, community organizers to fashion designers and local small business owners. Knowing I can connect these different groups of people makes it all worthwhile.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
I sometimes wonder if I’d have had an easier life if I was born a guy. I doubt I would have experienced sexual harassment, had folks question when I’d be popping out babies and I can’t say that I’d need to develop a special ‘geek club’ to ensure that my fellow males had the ability to speak on technology panels so in some ways being a girl is a challenge.
I’m empowered by having these kinds of obstacles present and by being able to work with what tools I have on hand. All of the crappy things that have happened to me because of my “girlness” have made me stronger, more sympathetic and more aware of how hard many people have it, regardless of their gender.
It’s important to examine whether the challenges that girls face are self-imposed or come from external forces in society so it’s essential to examine why we feel the way we do and then address the issues head-on to change them.
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is, don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps but your own (especially mine!).
If anything, I believe in creating opportunities and seeking out people who are aligned with my values and beliefs so my advice would be to find people around you who are into similar causes as you are and then learn and grow with them. There is such a power in community and now more than ever, it’s easier to find people who are geeky about the same things.
Also, don’t be afraid to be weird. Being weird is a personality trait worth embracing.
What is one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
Gwen Bell is a writer, digital strategist and all around burst of sunshine. She’s someone who has inspired me due to her strong, but gentle voice and her wise instructions on how to balance work and life. Much like me, Gwen’s someone who’s involved in her local tech scene but also is grounded in mindfulness and yoga practice so she comes to the geek world from a conscious and aware position and a desire to help and give back to others. Gwen’s blog is a must read and if anything I suggest checking out her post on “Creating a Personal Manifesto” which gave me a new perspective on knowing myself and my personal goals.
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?
Get to know yourself and don’t try to be anyone but who you are. Authenticity is so important so it’s essential to spend some time thinking about what’s important, what’s worth fighting for, what’s worth letting go of, what causes pain, joy and who we really want to be spending out time with.
To change the world, I think we need to start with knowing ourselves better and becoming friends with who we are. It’s time to stop beating ourselves up, as that can only make us take that anger and negativity out on the world. Give yourself a big freakin’ hug. You deserve it.
If you’re a proud geek yourself and interested in the Geek Girl Dinners, check out Tanya in Montreal and all the Girl Geek Dinners at the main site here or at the individual sites below:
Montreal Girl Geek Dinners
London Girl Geek Dinners
Saskatoon Girl Geek Dinners
Toronto Girl Geek Dinners
Barcelona Girl Geek Dinners
Brighton Girl Geek Dinners
Brussels Girl Geek Dinners
Nottingham Girl Geek Dinners