The Invasion of the Female Programmers (You Might Have to Work with One)

A female software developer discusses the unique challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field.
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Lately there have been a lot of articles sent to me about “geekettes,” the new wave of “normal” (read: cute) girls entering the IT workforce. I attribute this trend to a few things. First, geeks are the new cool kids. Your mom was right: as we get older the people with good work ethic, who are smart and focused, are where it’s at. We women have seen the fun you guys have been having, and we want in.

Also, there is a deeper component to this demographic change in software programming. What happened to the Birkenstock and flannel wearing woman developers of the past? Some of you may not like my explanation, but hear me out, I’m going to tell you a story.

I have often written about my social awkwardness as a child. I was homeschooled and not often around children my age. When I was 14 I let my parents know I wanted to go to a real school, so I entered the local public high school. It took a lot of adjusting, and many embarrassing situations but after a year or two I developed a group of friends.

One day the topic came up, “If you could be smarter or more beautiful, which would you choose?” I answered first, knowing exactly what the right answer was: “Smart, of course.” I was greeted with a sight I had become quite used to at the time – blank incredulous stares. “Are you serious, Sara? You wouldn’t want to be prettier??”

I remember reeling from that response for a long time. I believe that this attitude drives this generation. No longer is it good enough to be the smart girl, in fact it’s much better to be the pretty girl. Look at every piece of media that enters our brains all day: perfect proportions and beautiful faces. Before you judge us for being easily manipulated, please think of the last time you did something about this particular social issue. What magazines do you read? What video games do you pay for? What shows do you watch?

Frankly, the smart girls know what is marketable.

Does that make us inferior developers? No way, in fact I would say that we girls have to fight harder to beat the stereotypes. You learn very quickly that all the smiles and laughs won’t get you far, and so far I’ve seen many ladies exceeding expectations and raising to the challenge. I’m proud ladies, I really am.

So, you’re considering hiring one of these “geekettes,” what should you expect? Well, it will probably be less of an adjustment than you think. Though we’re nerds of a different gender, we’re still nerds. We love this stuff for the same reason you do. A lot of us have the same habits and hobbies. Even those women who don’t like BG, STNG, xkcd, or MMORPG still can contribute a great viewpoint to your team just like any other developer. Developers : Comic-Con is now like Designers : Hybrids; the majority lean that way, but you don’t have to in order to make a difference.


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Tags: developer, programming, software, software developer, female software


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