Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Oh, a woman, she must be the project manager"

Coffee in one hand, laptop in the other, you're entering a conference room to spend the next hour or so with a handful of people you've never met before. You greet the lot by a quick handshake, first the women and then the two men, before you sit down.

You're there to supply the details as to how the other attendees can integrate their systems against yours, and the woman starts firing away questions. Half an hour of discussions passes and the questions get more and more technical, the woman is still the one who initiates most of them while the two men contribute with their opinions.

The big question is: "When you are to ask a question in return, a question which a developer must answer, who do you direct it to?"

This scenario played out in one of my meetings yesterday and the guy made it quite clear.

"I'm going to address you as you look like the developer", he said and turned to my male colleague.

"We're all developers", my champ colleague replied as I could feel the blood pumping from frustration. I decided to let the comment slip, and I continued to ask questions for another hour.

Gender equality has come quite far in Norway compared to most other countries in the world, even in the tech industry. So encounters such as yesterday's meeting are rare, but they do happen occasionally. When they do, how do you react?

I chose not to say anything and continue the meeting in peace. I didn't feel as though he was intentionally rude, he was simply ignorant. Ignorant of the fact that there are female developers out there, so clearly I must have been the project manager. Had he been mean, I would have said something. But the problem with speaking up about these issues is that you quickly replace your "she's a women, she can't be a developer" label with the "she's an emotional, hysterical feminist" label. And I believe that label does more harm than good.

So my strategy is to prove them all wrong. Like I did earlier this year when I ran into my "you only got this job because you're a woman" ex-colleague before my session at NDC Oslo. One by one, I'm going to prove to them that I'm capable of being an awesome developer AND a woman. Because, believe it or not: There's no testosterone requirement to our profession.

No comments:

Post a Comment