Attend Vegas Jelly on any given Thursday evening at /usr/lib, and one will see a swarm of people working on computers, learning about a specific subject in a breakout session or socializing with fellow technology enthusiasts. The crowd tends to grow by the hour as people file into the Zappos-backed space at Emergency Arts, 520 Fremont St., designed specifically for those involved with downtown's technology scene.
There is, however, one noticeable difference in the crowd. Of the dozens of people packed into /usr/lib, only a handful of them are women. Among them is Rosa Ilinka McGill, founder of Girls in Tech Las Vegas, who hopes to cultivate a core of women in the valley interested in technology.
"The technology industry is mostly male-dominated," McGill said. "Women who have an online business, it's very challenging to find organizations and like-minded people who speak their language. Girls in Tech gives an opportunity for women to connect with one another. It's a place for women to talk about ideas."
McGill, a Melbourne, Australia, transplant who made her way to Las Vegas in March, was interested in meeting women involved with social media marketing and other aspects of the industry. She participated in Vegas Jelly sessions, where she saw very little female participation and decided to start a Las Vegas chapter of Girls in Tech. Since April, the organization's online MeetUp group has garnered more than 60 members, and its Facebook page has more than 80 likes.
McGill said with the organization in existence for just a couple of months, she never expected such a large response.
"It turns out there has been this tremendous desire for women in tech to get involved," McGill said. "They just needed someone to put out the call. I could feel that there was this space that wanted to be filled, and the response has been very enthusiastic."
Since Girls in Tech Las Vegas' inception, McGill and other members have hosted Vegas Jelly meetings, a launch party and events tailored to engage and educate women in the field. Members' technology backgrounds vary, which is why McGill aims to collaborate with other members on events that appeal to women of all experience levels.
Alexis Glaser, Girls in Tech Las Vegas member and a marketing communications coordinator, was thrilled to find the group as a woman and newcomer to the technology field.
"For me, I'm a big advocate of empowered women," Glaser said. "I came to hear Rosa speak at an Inspire! Las Vegas event and loved what she was saying about (the group). It's great to see, in a male-dominated field, women in your situation who are willing to help you."
Glaser isn't the only one looking to dive into the technology world. Rebecca St. Peter, another member and owner of Karate Karaoke, joined Girls in Tech Las Vegas for similar reasons.
"I was just trying to find a group of women I could relate to," said St. Peter, who hopes to gain technological skills she can use in her business. "I don't have a tech background, and these are smart women I can learn from. It's about being around people who are innovators."
It's members such as these, McGill said, who foster the type of culture she hopes to establish.
"(This group) is about women supporting each other," McGill said. "In terms of a career, people who have mentors can excel and develop in that profession. Men (usually) do that more than women do. I want to be able to have leaders and highlight these leaders in the tech scene."
Girls in Tech Las Vegas may still be in its infancy, but McGill has goals in mind for the growing organization. She aims to establish a committed group of volunteers, grow to 500 members, create a blog and possibly see the formation of a company emerge from Girls in Tech Las Vegas.
McGill knows reaching those goals will take time, but she is optimistic about the group's potential.
"There's a really great opportunity in being part of a grass-roots organization like this, especially one that's volunteer-based," McGill said. "You're getting an opportunity to be part of things happening downtown and in the tech scene in your own way."
For more information on Girls in Tech Las Vegas, email lasvegas@girlsin tech.net.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-4686.