Last week, to mark international women’s day, I attended a screening of “Hidden Figures” which was supported by 14 different ‘women in tech’ groups (thanks to pyladies who led the way). With ease, the 14 groups came together to fill the cinema with men and women from all walks of life, watching the big screen as a few key mathematicians in a minority won the day (not a spoiler….and it’s a great movie if you can get to see it). While these many groups of ‘women in tech’ who hosted the movie vary in size and member diversity, each plays their role in providing a forum to talk in a positive way and encourage a specific topic. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I believe that they are not coming together because they are disadvantaged at other events…they are coming together because it’s an exciting and uplifting experience to spend time purely with like-minded folk, with similar values and goals.
Some might say that attending niche groups can feel exclusionary, if you don’t feel you meet the criteria for the forum’s specific purpose. On the flipside, attending broader events with hundreds or thousands of people, often means you don’t meet one (let alone many) others in your key area of interest. There is a place for larger audiences, and there are also many benefits to being part of a niche conversation. People in smaller groups are often very well connected, they know a thing or two about getting started in their field and are willing mentors in their area of interest.
I’ll note that joining a group that will help you to understand and connect with a new subject matter or skill can be difficult if you lack confidence in the detail or the groups you come across don’t quite fit what you need. Some groups are very specific in their content and walking into a smaller group when you can’t fade into the crowd of thousands can be daunting. Try a step in the right direction and get to know some of these happy minorities who nurture unique skills and subject matter – there are many and there really is something for everyone. Someone out there is sure to be curating a specialised conversation in your area of interest (just like 14 groups who came together last week). Check out the meetup apps and web searches, and if you can’t find a group that you feel comfortable to join, why not create one? And feel free to call out a niche group in the comments if you know one that might be of interest….