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Breaking the “Male” Code: Women in Technology

Working within a marketing agency, I realized, at this point in time, you need to know basic web development skills to ease communication between you and your development team and/or clients. Successful communication between all working parts of an agency makes for outstanding campaigns and client relationships.

So I started my quest to learn some basic skills in development but I got sidetracked as I discovered this underground force of women and technology.

As a woman in her early (heavy emphasis on early) 30s, when thinking of development or anything tech related, my mind wanders to college where computer science majors were mainly male and computer classes were not really anything I would have liked. I realize it was a stigma, but even as a teen or early twentysomething, I was not the target audience for web development careers. It sort of was like Woodshop, where women were not expected to grow in that profession, so any marketing tactics were heavily focused on the male audience. Jasmine Tsai, a software engineer, talks about why she wished she would have known more about computer science earlier in her life:

The one thing that I wish I had known about computer science (and programming more generally) earlier is that it is a profoundly creative and interdisciplinary pursuit. Code is not everything, but an application can serve as the careful and intelligent distillation of someone’s vision that others can then further rally around. It is an incredibly giving and powerful skill that everyone should be entitled to have.

Jasmine Tsai
Read the rest of the article here. (it’s pretty great!)

It’s not a secret: There are fewer women in tech than there are men. Let’s talk numbers!

  • Out of every 100 software developers/engineers in Los Angeles, approximately 10-12 are female.
  • In 2011, for positions in technology in L.A., only 17% were women.
  • Only 7% of developers hired through major tech companies were women.

Please know I’m not  bashing on men and/or proclaiming power to the ladies, but merely making an observation.

I personally had no interest in learning about the world of web development and it probably had to do with the lack of ‘sexiness’ that surrounded the industry.

So, I began my quest to uncover this mystery behind women in web technology and discovered quite a few truths. Women in tech DO exist and there are many resources out there to assist in bringing women back to the forefront because we’ve been there since the beginning.

With all of this talk about women striving to make a name for themselves in development, I do want to mention the most important historical fact about women in web development:

Ada Lovelace

Meet Ada Lovelace, The Enchantress of Numbers

Ada, dubbed as one of the early founders of what is modern day “computer programming,” should definitely be mentioned more often in this industry. During the 1830s, the idea of a computer  was non-existent, yet the thought process behind it was in full swing.  Ada came from an eccentric family with a background in the arts and a history of mental illness. She was pushed into the math logic and science worlds by her mother, in hopes it would keep her on a positive mental note. Who needs Valium when you have algebra?

Ada befriended Charles Babbage at 18. Babbage, known for originating the idea of a programmable computer, was working on an early form of a calculator called The Difference Engine. Babbage tasked Ada to translate an Italian mathematician’s article, which in turn she transformed into a 20,000 word work that included the first computer program. OH SNAP.

“She has thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of Sciences and has grasped it with a force which few masculine intellects could have exerted over it.

 

This is not a well-known fact in the programming world; much of the credit was given to Babbage, but there are movements in Ada’s name to empower women in technology.

In understanding that women have been involved and continue to be involved in tech, it shows that we have always been there, just not at the forefront. Fast forward to now when we are leading great programs to push women to the top.

THE ADA INITIATIVE

The Ada Initiative noticed that with open source software and data (FireFox and Wikipedia) being the foundation of the internet, and with Facebook and Google depending on open software, women only make up for 2% of the open source software community. They wanted to bring this to the forefront and empower women of all backgrounds to be involved.

The Ada Initiative is a feminist organization. We strive to serve the interests and needs of women in open technology and culture who are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression, including disabled women, women of color, LBTQ women, and women from around the world. 

Not only are there powerful and influential women in web development that have made a name for themselves, there are several resources tailored for women specifically that increase their confidence and knowledge to become talented web developers.

CHICKTECH

ChickTech has chapters in Oregon that are dedicated to women and have women mentors speaking to high schools and colleges about the power of women in this industry. Reading their mission and value statements show their focus on success for women in technology.

Our Vision: We envision a safe, inclusive and innovative technology future, that includes, equal pay, participation and treatment of women.

Our Mission: ChickTech is dedicated to retaining women in the technology workforce and increasing the number of women and girls in technology-based careers.

SKILLCRUSH

What about development courses specifically tailored for women and taught BY women? Skillcrush has you covered. Even I’m taking a web development course! Our class and professors are 100% female. Talk about empowering! The site is very female-friendly—as a participant, I can say it was absolutely an amazing experience (a big plus is I did learn the basic skills needed for my career). They don’t exclude males nor is it explicitly indicated that this is for women, but it goes without saying the UX is lady-friendly.

Despite the many programs and non-profits that are available to women, we still are faced with the inevitable feeling that we do not belong. It is a sick feeling that starts in your brain and works its way all over your body. It can happen to any gender in many different situations, but I relate to it when it comes to my career.

Meet “Imposter Syndrome”

Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.

Why is Imposter Syndrome a thing with women in tech? What can we do to squash it? The worst feeling is the feeling you don’t belong whether it be when you were a kid and were not allowed in the sandbox because you didn’t have a shovel, or high school when you were the weird girl from another town. Women especially deal with this when we go into industries or roles that not too many women have been in before. It is not necessarily their surroundings or peers that cause these feelings, merely decades of disempowerment that came before them. We must acknowledge the past but embrace the future. We have so many resources available to help. Women have come to the forefront and will never go back into the shadows of technology again. We are CEOs and CTOs of some of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

I am sure that these women all have felt those imposter feelings many times over, but they have persevered.

Susan Wojcicki

Susan Wojcicki

CEO, YouTube

Virginia Rometty

CEO, IBM

Meg Whitman

Meg
Whitman

CEO, Hewlett-Packard

Padmasree Warrior

Padmasree Warrior

CTO, CISCO

Most of all I want to mention Gwynn Shotwell. Gwynn is the COO of SpaceX which is just a little company that designs, manufactures and launches ROCKETS INTO SPACE. She runs all day to day operations with one goal in mind…life on other planets!

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

GOTTA START SOMEWHERE

Use your resources and jump in. If you are interested in any of the programs above, reach out—they are amazing organizations with amazing values. The path for women in technology is growing, but there is a lot more that needs to be done to get the word out.

If you want to chat more about it, email me!

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