A lot of the time when I describe myself and what I’m passionate about, I end up talking about women in programming or women in engineering. Taking about concepts such as power, oppression, injustice, equality, objectification, etc has been a common theme in my life since I started college.
And to be honest, if you look back at my life, it was a trend when I was a little girl, too. Instead of playing on the girls t-ball team, I played on the boys team. For the one insufferable season that I played soccer, I was on a co-ed team sporting a bowl cut (a hairstyle I demanded because my brother got one).
So this theme of being a little brave and loud about things that people don’t always notice is not something new. It’s just a little bit of who I am.
So it should come as no surprise that upon entering the world of programming, there are things I notice. Namely:
- It’s not uncommon for me to be the only woman in a room.
- Just because there are other women doesn’t mean that we’re going to bound over our shared gender. I’m just as likely to connect with a fellow woman in programming as I am with anyone else that I share a common interest and gender with.
- If I am the only woman in the room, how I carry myself often sets the tone for how men respond to me and the things I say.
- A strong personality, patience, or a desire to find common ground through conversation make more of a difference in how well I get along with people than anything else.
- Everybody loves to talk about Katy Perry, even if they don’t like her, she’s still fun to talk about.
Only a few of these observations have anything to do with me being a woman, although who knows how likely it is that a man in engineering would make similar observations.
But really, the point is, women are in programming, just like women are in everything else. And, just like everything else women are minorities in, we sometimes have to deal with bigotry, ignorance, arrogance, confusion, fear, and sexism. But also, just like everything else women are minorities in, we have allies, we find support, and we eventually succeed.
Women are in everything because we’re people, and people are in everything. We will get through the rough spots because we have the allies and the support. And even when we get through the rough spots, there will still be some troubling events. It will never be perfect, but we can still strive for it.
Although you would assume it goes without saying, it actually has to be mentioned because it often isn’t, women aren’t the only minority group - in programming, or in anything. I won’t pretend to be an expert on being marginalized: just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know about being an outsider. It may not always be easy for me, but it could definitely be harder. And even then, it not about the level of difficulty a person experiences, it’s about there being difficulty for people period.
When you start talking about “women in engineering”, remember that women are one group of many that need support and allies and be someone who provides support for people who need it and don’t be afraid to be an ally.