I had the pleasure through Girls in Tech Los Angeles to attend last week the first Geek Girls Dinner in the LA area. Geek Girls Dinner is a global movement getting us geeky gals together to network and be inspired by motivational awesome women in our fields. This first event in Los Angeles was no exception.
First of all, it was at Google's campus in Santa Monica. You truly are a geek if you get excited just walking up to Google's offices. As I signed in I could see the couches in the employee work area were in the iconic Blue/Red/Yellow/Green colors of Google's logo. I so wanted to go wander about their work area but alas, it was blocked by big burly security guards. No worries, the Google hosted bar stopped me in my tracks - with drinks like "Rover on Mars", "Solar Flare" and "Curiosity" calling my name I probably wouldn't have made it past the bar.
After mixing, networking, yummy appetizers and cocktails we all filed into the Google auditorium to be inspired by Nagin Cox of JPL/NASA and Maja Mataric, professor of Neurological Robotics from USC. Nagin Cox has been involved with the Mars Rover project from the beginning and is a fantastic engaging speaker. It was so fun to move with her through the evolution of NASA's exploration of Mars from the orbital satellites to the first Rover, Spirit and Opportunity and finally, Curiosity. She is an inspiration to us all and one picture in her slide show struck me as the epitome of exactly what we women face in this man's world - it was of Nagin Cox with her arms in the air in victory as Curriosity landed in the mission control room surrounded by men. Nagin - the lone woman. A victory in so many ways.
Maja Mataric's talk was very different from Nagin Cox's in that some of her points were how she balances between her children, her research, her classes, her grad students and the politics of being a tenured professor. Maja Mataric is plowing new ground in robotics and how these human size robots will be caregivers for stroke victims, physical therapy and all sorts of age related issues. I'm paraphrasing here but she drove home the point to us that you don't have to make a choice between work and family. Just make it work and do what is right for you. If you can't make a 9 am meeting with your boss because you need to take your kid to school, just say, "Hey, that doesn't work for me, I'll be there at 10" I'm sure that being a published, tenured brilliant robotasist who has spoken in front of congress gives you a lot of power to make those sort of statements without being fired - but the point remains.
What is the main take away from an event like this? There is no limit to what we can do as women!