Our friendly journalist Gareth Halfacree recently attended the first Liverpool MakeFest event on our behalf, talking to the thronging crowds find out what's hot in the maker world at the minute. This series of Focus On features takes a look at some of the event's exhibitors, finding out what they're up to and what makes them tick.
Taking the escalator up to the second floor of Liverpool Central Library, there's a stall - sandwiched between an author with stacks of his latest book and a company which builds remote-controlled drone aircraft for the film and photography industries - which seems slightly out of place. While others at the first Liverpool MakeFest have tables groaning under the weight of their show-and-tell goodies, this table is empty of all but a box of sweets and some business cards. There's a good reason for this: Liverpool Girls Geeks, the organisation running the stand, isn't looking to sell physical objects so much as the very concept of equality.
"We're a network of women in Liverpool that are interested in or already involved in the digital and tech industries," Rebecca Jones, taking a break from snapping pictures of attendees holding up a sign cleverly designed to replicate an Instagram post, explains. "We run events, like on International Women's Day we held an event in conjunction with Open Labs at JMU and DoES Liverpool. That was basically lots of maker bits and pieces, so we did stuff on the 3D printer, stuff on the laser cutter, we got some companies involved like Red Ninja and Innovators Hub to talk about what they're doing and how they're engaged with women in the roles that are available in their companies and the type of innovation that's happening in their companies."
As its name suggests, Liverpool Girl Geeks is entirely focused on the female half of the human species - and with good reason: in many industries, but in particular the technology industries, women are horrifically under-represented in the workplace. "You wouldn't exclude 51 per cent of your workforce if there was any other reason, so why would you do it just because they're women? I don't think it's something that necessarily is done consciously," Rebecca explains, "but it's something that we need to start getting people to think about, because women offer lots of innovation, lots of creativity, lots of different ways of thinking about things. It's about changing mindsets, producing role models for young girls to aspire to be, and making sure that everyone's aware of these issues and really engages with what we're trying to do, and that girls know that they do have opportunities and we'll help them to get there."
Rebecca believes that things are beginning to shift, though. "The science and technology and engineering courses have been seen as male roles and there's been that sort of patriarchal view. I definitely think that's changing," she opines. "I think schools are doing a lot more to engage girls and make sure they continue into the GCSEs and A Levels, that when they're picking their options they're picking the ones that most suit their skills, rather than what teachers think that girls should be doing. That's going to change things; I think in five to ten years we're going to see a massive change because that's been recognised at the basic educational level."
Interested parties around the Merseyside area can get in touch with Liverpool Girl Geeks via the official website, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter, or Facebook. "We'll respond as quickly as we can to all of those," Rebecca promises, "and we're just keen to find out how we can be doing more, as much as we want to involve girls getting involved with what we're doing already."