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A Woman in (Computer) Development

I recently became a local Chapter Lead for Canada Learning Code. It is a really great opportunity to gain more experience in marketing, leadership, and event planning as well as work for organizations whose goals align with my own. So who is Canada Learning Code? They are a nation-wide charitable organization that whose goal is

… to ensure that all Canadians – particularly women, girls, people with disabilities, Indigenous youth and newcomers – who have been historically underrepresented in the sector are given equal opportunity to build our future.

Local chapters (and now Code Mobiles) all over Canada deliver workshops for ladies, girls, kids, teens and teachers geared towards coding and technology. For example, the first workshop in Belleville was a ladies learning code workshop: HTML & CSS for Beginners: Learn to Build a One Page Website From Scratch. It is a great workshop to get started with if you want to learn more about programming and have always wanted to create your own website. The next workshop coming up next month is “Getting Started with WordPress + Blogging” coming up on July 24 + July 31 (click the link for more details)

Part of the process for setting up a new chapter in a new city is the Chapter Lead creating a blog post for the launch. In addition to the usual background information, I shared a small story about a fairly recent event. Here is the excerpt:

I can recall starting a new position and being the only women in the development department. It is often the case that I end up being the only women doing development or in the IT department. But in the process of meeting everyone, I met with the accounting department. That department was mostly women and when they were told that I was the new software developer, one of the women wrinkled her nose and asked me why I would want to work in development. And I am not exaggerating, she literally wrinkled her nose. My answer was simple, I like it. It stuck with me and was the catalyst for me wanting to get more women involved in the industry.

It was kind of a silly thing and we kind of laughed about it, but it stuck with me. During my time in IT and development, it is not uncommon for other women to have that reaction though it is generally more subtle. And men in the industry can often be dismissive (not all men). I have often wondered why they are dismissive. Is it because they are uncomfortable speaking with women, do not think we (or I) am skilled enough to be working with them as a peer, or do they think I (or other women) don’t have the passion for the industry so they are not as invested? One of the observations I did not share in the blog post that I will share in this blog post is that in my experience so far (and this is very over-generalized) the other women in the industry are not into the culture. They are working in IT or development but they don’t share the same interests as their male counterparts or have the same overall passion for things digital. And again this is a casual observation and personal opinion based on those observations. Obviously, there are some they really have a passion for the work and other things digital but it is actually rare that I meet those other women (except since joining Canada Learning Code!!). Sometimes I feel like if more women and girls are exposed to digital culture and programming they might find they have a passion for it like I did.

I have clearly over-generalized. And have only given my view of my time (20 years) in IT and Development. Things are changing but there still can be a stereotype (sometimes perceived as negative). I remember watching a Simpsons episode (I used to love the Simpsons and even have a Simpsons trivia game that my daughter and I would use to quiz each other on Simpsons trivia lol). But in this episode, there was a female coder and she is what men in the industry and women and men outside the industry tend to think of when they hear that a developer is a programmer. And ultra-hip, pierced, man-hating, lesbian. Not only was the main female programmer like this, but all her friends were as well. I have exactly zero problems with ultra-hip pierced man-hating lesbians (or any combo of those traits which don’t necessarily even have to go together, but that’s a whole other issue) but it kind of gives the wrong impression of what personality you need to have to be a female developer. And also sends the message that unless you are that stereotypical, you won’t be legitimate. It is very similar to the issue the continues to plague female gamers. Just because you are not into counter-culture, or don’t “look” like you are a programmer, or gamer or whatever. Or just because you don’t have a passion for programming, coding, IT, etc. it doesn’t make you less legitimate. I mean personally for me it’s nice because I am into all the geekiness so it’s nice to be able to relate to other developers on that level.

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