Rachel Murray has managed websites and web teams for a variety of organizations from small to large in the US and overseas for the last fifteen years, including at the World Health Organization in Geneva. She’s worn many professional hats, from coding websites by hand to managing large migration and integration projects. Since leaving her last day job, she’s consulted on web projects, but her primary focus has been developing She Geeks Out, the social enterprise she co-founded in 2013, to which she now devotes all her energies.
She Geeks Out has two primary missions: first, building communities of women passionate for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and second, educating companies on diversity and inclusion.
Recently we caught up with Rachel and learned more about her thoughts on women in tech, how she came to co-found She Geeks Out, and how she is building She Geeks Out into Boston’s premiere organization supporting women in STEM.
What inspired you to co-found She Geeks Out?
We are not a typical startup. We started out as Boston Girl Geek Dinners – there was a Girl Geek Dinners group in London and I decided to start a chapter in Boston in 2008. It sort of faded out until my cofounder Felicia’s boss went to a Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner in 2013 and she offered to sponsor an event for us here. It was fantastic timing, 80 women turned out! I think we discovered from that significant turnout and all the energy and excitement it generated that there was a real need in Boston for women in tech to come together and find community and inspiration from each other.
From there, we grew from market demand. Companies started reaching out to us to put on events, and in 2015 we rebranded and relaunched as She Geeks Out. A lot of times you think of starting a business with a product fulfilling a market need. But for us it was the community that reached out to us to meet their needs and we responded to that. The market validated the demand for our facilitating putting women in tech together with each other by paying us, and we quickly found ourselves booked out for a year ahead.
How do you see She Geeks Out growing and evolving?
Since 2015, my co-founder Felicia and I have both quit our jobs and devoted ourselves full time to growing and developing She Geeks Out. Recently we’ve seen the compelling way Trump, Susan Fowler’s amazing blog post about what she went through working at Uber, and now Harvey Weinstein have all helped raise women’s consciousness and empower their voices, and we’ve responded to that.
Last year we started a diversity and inclusion training program where companies hire us to facilitate workshops on identifying unconscious bias and micro aggression, understanding diversity and inclusion issues, and providing their employees with tools to mitigate bias within the system as a whole. I’m optimistic that what happened with Harvey Weinstein has been a watershed moment about a systemic problem around power. It’s just one slice of it but I think it’s beginning to result in wider conversations.
We at She Geeks Out want to create a holistic experience for women in tech, but we also want to make sure the companies that hire these women have the tools to support them and keep them. Otherwise women leave, and from a business perspective that gets very expensive.
Finally, we have created She Geeks Out as a B Corporation. In the United States, a B Corp, or benefit corporation, is a type of for-profit corporate entity authorized by 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that includes positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals. We want She Geeks Out’s mission of social change to be as embedded in what we do as much as possible, down to the corporate structure we have chosen for ourselves.
Talk to us about bias
Everyone has bias, it’s just a question of understanding it. For example, just 3% of the recipients of venture capital funding are women, and that figure is even less for People Of Color. There’s a clear affinity bias that exists in this area. It’s important to note that lifting the statistics for women and People of Color up in an arena like this does not result in bringing white men’s down — but there’s a fear of that that’s embedded in the system.
Additionally, girls and boys are taught and socialized differently and that’s affected the workplace and beyond. She Geeks Out impacts that in two ways. On the social side, we as women embrace our passion and share joy and laughter about being part of tech, and that’s empowering the next day when the women who attend one of our events go back to their workplaces. And on the corporate training side we really try to get specific about how you can break down bias and mitigate it. I couldn’t imagine She Geeks Out not doing both: you can’t have one without the other!
The market and the community have both told us what they need. And where is She Geeks Out today? We will have trained 500 people in 2017, and we’ll have have held 20 events by year end with more than 2000 people in attendance. Additionally we are doing our first surveys on diversity and inclusion in Boston’s tech communities this fall. We are reaching out to both human resource departments and to people working in tech for responses, and we want to get both men and women’s opinions. We look forward to publishing and sharing what we learn!
How has Impact Hub been helpful to you in building She Geeks Out?
Impact Hub is like a second home for me. The community is so supportive, the energy is great, it’s the best work environment I’ve ever been in. The people are number one – especially Hilary and Alisha. They set such a great tone.
Advice for Impact Hubbers/ seekers in general?
Be kind, answer your emails in a timely manner, and brush your teeth twice a day!
We at She Geeks Out are very fortunate to have found that our passion has potentially translated into a successful business model. No one should beat themselves up about finding a passion that converts into dollars! I’m very lucky having a great partner and co-founder in Felicia, and that our passion has converted into a working way to support myself.
Every single day I say how lucky I am!
Thank you, Rachel, and thank you to She Geeks Out for all the terrific work you all doYou can find out more about She Geeks Out at https://www.shegeeksout.com. It’s a great organization!