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Women in Programming – The Great Debate

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Recently, a friend of mine in the technology field asked me a very interesting question.  She wanted to know why in the heck did I choose to go into the software development field.  She knows of my history with being a female in management and was curious as to why I decided to go into an even greater male-dominated field.  The only response I could think of was to tell her that I hit like a girl.

Huh?  You hit like a girl?

Well, recently I saw an ad by “Always” that asked adults to demonstrate how to run and throw “like a girl”.  The adults (women included) ran dramatically and flimsily, basically demeaning themselves and every female they ever met.  When they asked young girls to run and throw “like a girl”, they ran with all of their might, and threw as hard as they could.  Why? Because they ran like themselves, strong young women.  Their minds had not be hindered to think that doing anything “like a girl” was demeaning.

I have been blessed to have a strong mother as a role model, and I’ve always believed that I can do anything that my male counterparts could do.  I don’t think of this consciously, it’s engrained within me.  Actually, my thought process is if someone else can do it, then so can I — male or female.  So, when I told my friend that I hit like a girl, I meant that I made the decision based on my passions, not based on current industry standards.

But her question forced me to think harder…

I remember the feeling of always being the only female amongst my peers, and in many situations the only African American.  I come from a family where race didn’t matter, but it was hard not to notice in situations where there was a room full of white males, and then there was me.  I remember feeling excluded even if it was only because they edited their usual conversations in hope of not offending me.  There were situations where I would find out about outings where they would bond, but I was never included.  Yes, this was not the main point of running a business, but regardless, the feeling did sting.  I learned to be strong and self motivated.  I learned to do everything harder… study… sell… learn… train…

I honestly have never worked in any other environment.  I want to be a game developer because I am passionate about games and creating things.  I feel epic amounts of joy when I figure out new ways to code and push myself to learn as much as I can.  I feel amazing when I learn a new programming paradigm and language.  I understand what I’m getting myself into, but that never stopped me in the past, it will not stop me now.

Does the absence of females in programming mean that we are bad programmers?

Absolutely NOT!  From birth, we were encouraged to be domesticated.  We were given dolls when men were given fire trucks.  Marketing and advertisements have portrayed us holding babies while men are portrayed behind computers and wearing suits.  This trend is shifting as of late, but much of the change has happened in recent years — not enough time to offset the affects.  There is an epidemic around the world that still casts women in the mere shadows of men.  It will take time to change this epidemic, but in the meantime, women have to shed their fear and follow their dreams regardless of the terrain ahead.  Long story short, our absence does not make us bad programmers, we just need to open our eyes and our horizons to the possibilities.

Toxicity and the Good Ol’ Boys Club…

Both professionally and personally, I have been in contact with the painful outcomes of male-dominated environments.  Professionally this club manifested itself in me being passed up for well deserved promotions and me making far less than my peers for many years and in several different positions.  Personally, I’ve experienced the gaming community where girls were treated like inferior beings that deserved to spend their time in the kitchen.  Yet, I carved my way in both environments.  I let my work ethic speak for itself and in gaming I was accepted through playing well and being consistent.

Is what we face as women fair? 

Not even slightly, but neither is life.  I can say one thing, I am a stronger person because of my experiences.  I have so much perseverance and I believe in my capabilities.  I also know that I can push myself past my limits to achieve things that I didn’t even think were remotely possible.  The best I can do each day is try to dispel the notions that doing anything “like a girl” is a negative thing.  The best I can do is work hard to learn enough to be a valuable asset within any company that I choose to work.  Last, but certainly not least, I can bring myself to work every day.  I don’t want to be “one of the boys” — I want to be a girl, that just so happens to be a programmer.

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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in STEM

 

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