On july 7th, we will be holding the first ever Women in Tech conference, hosted by Meet Berlage. This conference seeks to provide an open forum in which women are empowered to network, expand their knowledge both within and outside their expertise, and share their experiences with one another. Because this is the first Women in Tech conference in the Beurs van Berlage, we decided to interview Ashley Marriott, one of the founders of this conference.
Beurs van Berlage: Hi Ashley, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ashley Marriott: My name is Ashley Marriott, I'm an American expat living here in Amsterdam. I grew up in California and Mexico and moved to Europe 10 years ago, since then I've lived in Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. I completed my undergraduate studies at the Rijksunversiteit Groningen in Applied Linguistics and am starting my master at the University of Amsterdam in Language and Education. I currently work here at Meet Berlage as a hostess and Community Manager. Although my principle specialization is languages, I also work in a very male dominated industry. As such, I take great interest in empowering women to succeed in their respective fields.
Beurs van Berlage: Who are you role models?
Ashley Marriott: I wouldn't say I have anyone in particular that I idolize. I have a great amount of respect for my mother however, she raised me as a single parent and ensured that I had a cultured upbringing that always encouraged curiosity.
Beurs van Berlage: What is the reason to organize Women in Tech?
Ashley Marriott: As I mentioned before, although my area of expertise is not tech specific, some of my best friends work in the male dominated tech industry and I've seen how it has been an uphill struggle for them to establish themselves, find the tools and acquire the necessary skills for their areas. I wanted to organize an event that provided an open forum for women (and men!) to engage actively with one another on a level playing field, to open up a dialogue to enable women to further their skill sets and provide networking opportunities.
Beurs van Berlage: What is the purpose of Women in Tech?
Ashley Marriott: The first ever Women in Tech conference hosted by Meet Berlage seeks to provide an open forum in which women are empowered to network, expand their knowledge both within and outside their field of expertise, and share their experiences with one another. Ensuring that women are afforded access to, control over, and the ability to create and shape the future of technology, are at the core of our vision. As such, we hope to facilitate interaction and encourage networking opportunities for women, both already in the tech industry, and those looking to find their footing.
Beurs van Berlage: Why is the congress important? And to what extent does this go hand in hand with feminism, which is more popular than ever?
Ashley Marriott: This conference is important because its different to the larger scale events held at the RAI for example, by keeping the size down its possible to create a better and more organic atmosphere that fosters networking opportunities and ensures that every attendee feels included and is able to get the most out of the workshops. I think that feminism is too often associated as being a bad word, feminism is more than anything about equality and by giving women the tools, and skills they need to succeed in the area we can somewhat level the playing field. The event is open to men and women and we encourage men to attend and show their support for the talented women around them.
Beurs van Berlage: Is it the intention that this congress will be held once, or more than once (maybe even internationally)?
Ashley Marriott: Ideally, I would like this to be an annual event or perhaps even bi-annual event.
Beurs van Berlage: What is your own experience as a Woman in Tech?
Ashley Marriott: Even though I wouldn't consider myself to be a woman in tech, I am familiar with what its like to work in a male dominated work-sphere and the challenges that come along with that. I think its important that we as a society become more aware of what it means to be a woman in the work force as a whole. The Tech industry is by and large still very much a boys club and I think that mindsets are changing. The best way to continue to foster this change is through positive events such as this one.
Beurs van Berlage: Why should more women work in Tech? And how can we make this possible?
Ashley Marriott: Women should feel that they are able to work in any field they feel passionate about. For far too long the societal and educational systems in place have failed to encourage women to pursue careers in technical fields. This is an outdated and archaic way of thinking which has no place in the world we live in today. Men and women are equals and its time we all do our part to ensure that this fact is recognized and respected.
Beurs van Berlage: The speakers are all women, and women in tech are encouraged to attend the conference. But, is this congress exclusively for women or can men also buy a ticket? Elaborate.
Ashley Marriott: The speakers are actually mixed! We are encouraging women and men alike to attend the event. This is about empowering women and the best way to do that is through the support of our male counterparts. Women at all stages in their career, whether in a technical position at a tech company, or otherwise are invited to attend. Leaders in their selected industries will be sharing their journeys, leadership strategies and insights. We invite all to come and enjoy a full day of workshops, speeches, and amazing opportunities to build authentic relationships and develop professionally.
Beurs van Berlage: Underrepresentation of women in Tech are very high, to what extent do you think this congress will help to solve this problem / to put it on the map?
Ashley Marriott: I have no illusions that this will be a groundbreaking event, I just want to open up the doors for women and provide the foundation for future interactions between women in the same industry or women looking to break into a new field of expertise.
Beurs van Berlage: One of the pillars of this congress is: nobody feels excluded at Women in Tech. Why is this the most important pillar?
Ashley Marriott: It happens too often at these larger events that individuals walk around alone and don't interact with anyone either because they are too shy or simply because they are rushing from one workshop to the next speaking event. The concept of 'no-one' left behind is centered on the idea that everyone takes social responsibility for one another thereby ensuring that even those individuals who are perhaps too shy to actively seek out information for themselves.
Beurs van Berlage: How do you think the future of women in tech looks like?
Ashley Marriott: In an ideal world, I would hope that the future for women in tech is one which is open, encouraging and full of opportunity. I hope that in the future, young girls will be not only supported in their interests in technical fields but actively encouraged to pursue this area.
Beurs van Berlage: To what extent do you think this conference will have an impact on the women who will attend the congress?
Ashley Marriott: I hope that everyone that attends the event leaves with a feeling of having acquired new knowledge, made new contacts and perhaps expanded their networks.
Beurs van Berlage: In your opinion, when do you deem this congress a ‘success’
Ashley Marriott: A success is not really something which can be actively measured in my opinion, rather if the attendees are happy and feel they've gained something then I can feel that I've achieved my goal.
Beurs van Berlage: What advice can you give to women who work in tech?
Ashley Marriott: I'm not sure I can really give any advice, only words of encouragement. If they have come this far and are working in a field they feel passionate about they're already half-way there. I would hope that they are willing to support other women looking to break into the industry and impart some of their knowledge and experiences with others.