All-girl panel shares aspects of nerd lifestyle
Lara Martin grew up playing computer games and learning computer coding with her father. She recalled tinkering with an old computer her parents bought at a garage sale until she knew how to operate it.
Martin, now the president of Women in Computer Science, a community of women majoring in computer sciences and information technology, said that regular exposure to games and computers as a child made her career choice a no-brainer.
She was among a panel of “nerdy girls” who spoke at the Busch Campus Center yesterday, where they talked about gaming, nerdy careers and the social identity that comes with being a “girl geek.”
About 30 people attended the event, which was part of the weeklong “Geek Week” celebrations held on campus by University Student Life.
Speaking on the number of women who major in computer science, Martin said rate is decreasing as women change majors or fulfill basic requirements.
“There just aren’t many girls,” Martin said. “[Sometimes we] feel the need to gang up and take on the major together.”
Panelist Angela Riccio said she likes to keep her nerdiness to herself and only share with the people who will understand it.
Riccio, a School of Arts and Science senior, said her college friends did not know she was a geek in high school. She often joked with her online friends about living a double life.
Riccio said she was fortunate enough to find women at the University with her science interest who can “nerd out” along with her, and that all the panelists share this same attribute, despite their upbringing.
“We’re all so different, from all different backgrounds doing what we love,” she said.
Rachel Quirico, another panelist, said she interacts with the culture of audiences and gamers on a daily basis, making friends within the community as she covers events and gamers worldwide.
“Being a giant nerd paid off,” said Quirico, a competitive gamer and e-Sports journalist.
When talking to male gamers, Quirico said she finds herself explaining her background in gaming in a constant battle to prove she is nerdy enough to hang out with them.
She said the e-Sports community tends to be unfair in how they treat women, critiquing females as distractions to the game while attacking their appearance.
Despite the obstacles, Quirico said she disregards what she calls “trolls,” or individuals who attack to provoke a response based on little to no information on the Internet, because she is confident they do not know what they are talking about.
Panelist Patricia Chau Nguyen said society has led to the judgmental attitude that a lot of nerds hold, citing movies in which a nerd girl has to go through a transformation to be accepted.
Although she has been attending Comic-Con — a convention devoted to the lastest pop culture including the latest comics, anime, graphics novels — for years, Nguyen, director Asian and Asian American Center at Cornell University, said she still gets mistook for the girlfriend of someone attending.
Zoe Gulliksen, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she prefers to make friends with people she meets online who share her interests, and she often goes to bars with them to discuss topics, such as comics.
“Trying to find a girl who is a geek is the easiest thing to do,” Gulliksen said. “It’s easier to say you’re into Spiderman.”
When being a geek is so engrained in your lifestyle, Gulliksen said it is hard to answer questions about it because it is a fundamental part of her personality.
“What makes me a geek? I don’t know,” she said. “What makes you a brunette?”
Martin said she is using some of her “nerd” skills for her technology career, and she plans to work on speech recognition software like Google Voice, which transcribes audio messages for users to read.
“We’re just starting to see it used in the commercial environment, but it’s still unstable,” Martin said. “The computer science industry is nowhere near being done. … There are always new ideas coming out.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misquoted Gulliksen saying, "Trying to find a girl who isn't a geek is the easiest thing to do." Gulliksen argued that it is.