Getting involved: Marie-Adélaïde Gervis and Marina Thiriet started Girls In Tech Luxembourg a year ago and are ready to move out of beta testing. Want to encourage women to make a digital move?
For Girls In Tech Luxembourg’s first event, the group’s two co-founders had to pay for the drinks out of their own pocket, as none of its early sponsors were willing to make the investment. “It was difficult to start from scratch” as there was a “credibility problem” at first, recalls Marina Thiriet, who runs the non-profit outfit with Marie-Adélaïde Gervis.
The two French women launched Girls In Tech Luxembourg in January 2014. It is part of the eight-year-old global organisation started in the US by Adriana Gascoigne that now has chapters in more than two dozen countries worldwide. Girls in Tech aims to provide women with the opportunity to succeed in a technology driven world usually very much dominated by men.
Marina, who has a background in coding, and Marie-Adélaïde, who worked with Girls in Tech Paris before moving to the Grand Duchy, have managed to build up support since then, including from big name sponsors such as BGL BNP Paribas. In November the City of Luxembourg granted the Anne Beffort prize to the group for its role in the improvement of equality in education.
Receiving the prize from the capital’s mayor, Lydie Polfer, and several aldermen marked a turning point of sorts. Both co-founders feel as though the chapter is now a real platform from which to build on for the future. Marie-Adélaïde says that since they have finished “the testing period” and “found there was enough demand and attendees,” 2015 can be “more professional, more structured,” something they couldn’t have done last year.
“More balanced world”
Marie-Adélaïde, a family woman with a full time job, describes herself as “an action person.” Due to her having a lot of other responsibilities, “I choose my battles, this is the battle I chose because I really believe in it.” She adds that she works towards “a vision of a more balanced world.” Marina agrees with this, saying that “there are plenty of opportunities in the digital world, women should be a part of it.”
Although Girls on Tech is fighting for more opportunities for women in the technology industry, both co-heads stress that they are not really “feminists”. Marina says: “We try to move away from being a feminist organisation.” Marie-Adélaïde adds that it is really encouraging that they have had “men advocates from the first moment” and that “they see that we are not a threat.”
But they also recount that another board member, Annabelle Buffart, who is a developer, has felt extremely pressured and intimidated in the past in a sector that tends to be 90% men.
According to Marie-Adélaïde, in the past people had even discouraged Annabelle from her studies and the course she wanted to take. It is really for this reason that the women feel it is important to stand for what they stand for now and encourage women to take a path that they would otherwise not take for fear of feeling left out.
Having said this, Marie-Adélaïde acknowledges that not everyone is like this obviously and one of the most rewarding parts of the work is the support and recognition they have gained, from women and men alike.
When Marie-Adélaïde recently went to a big event in the ICT world, she was introduced to another, male, attendee. When she asked whether he knew Girls in Tech, “he replied with ‘of course I know’.” Marie-Adélaïde says it’s just this sort of statement that encourages her the most.