Tuesday, January 3, 2012

“Let more people experience that boobs and coding ability are not mutually exclusive” – My Response to “The Token Female”

Sitting down with my morning coffee, I just came across a retweet by one of my followers on Twitter. The tweet referred to “The token female” by Christin Gorman. 

Being a female developer I never seize to be amazed by all the female developer vs. male developer discussions out there, but so far I have been able to stay on the sideline. This blog post, however, triggered something in me (I think it was the sentence “Let more people experience that boobs and coding ability are not mutually exclusive”) and I immediately felt the need to write a response.

I do not agree with all of Christin’s views, particularly her view of placing computer science students in classes based on skills. My main inspiration in life has always been talented piers, and had I not been allowed into the same class as my university friends who have programmed since their early school days, I’m afraid I would have lost a lot of motivation.

While not agreeing with her view on this, I do see her point. Like her, I had never programmed before I started university and of course the guys in my class never asked me a question they needed the answer to. Why should they? They had 3-5 years more experience than me, and all I did was to ask “stupid” questions. My belief is that there are no stupid questions, the only stupid thing you can do is not to ask. So after a year of “stupid” questions I slowly saw things changing. My male friends suddenly started asking me questions, they began to discuss the assignments with me, asking me for help. Their patience and helpfulness had helped me reach their level. BUT, if I had been put in a class containing students with the same (lack of) skills as me, I suspect it would have taken 3-5 years for me to reach this level instead of 1-2 years.

Christin Gorman describes a couple of scenarios in which she has directly been doubted as a female developer from a technical perspective, but I have been lucky enough not to experience this (so far). I know it will happen at some point, and it will probably happen more than once, but I am prepared for that. I have, on the other hand, received quite a lot of inappropriate comments from men I have met in various work related situations. These comments have spanned from “The only reason you got this job is because you’re female” to comments bordering to sexual harassment. As these comments all have come from men who have not actually seen my work, I have been able to shrug them off without much thought. If I have thought anything at all it’s been “Just wait, I’ll show you how good I can be”.

I will always continue to ask “stupid” questions, and my fellow male developers who know me well also know that the reason I do this is so I can become better. Some of them might even stop to think that having to answer all these questions will actually make them better at the same time. But the one thing I’m most grateful for above all, is that my colleagues at Epinova have never doubted my skills as a female developer. They are a living proof of male developers knowing that “boobs and coding ability are not mutually exclusive”.

Most female developers I know have had similar experiences to the ones described by Christin Gorman or myself. While these experiences can be aggravating or hurtful, it has to be said: There is no better feeling than proving you can kick ass AND be a female developer at the same time!

So thank you to Chrisin Gorman for a great blog post. Now, male or female, let us kick some ass!