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Deliberatepixel / A Portrait of the Developer as a Young Woman

A Portrait of the Developer as a Young Woman

On the heels of my post about female technology stereotypes, it occurs to me I have more to say about the issue - namely, why I care about it so much in the first place.

The simple fact of why I'm so interested in girls' education in technology and related fields is that I wish I had had a better one myself. I think that I fell victim to a lot of the same problems that we discuss plaguing girls now: lack of role models, low self-confidence, and feeling uncomfortable about what I felt I was supposed and not supposed to be doing. Even after I made the decision to pursue computer science (over two years into college), it was an uphill battle. There were very few women I could look up to, or even talk to about it. As I began to work and gain experience in IT, I worked with women, but most had largely come into the field from the administrative sector, not the technical side. As far as technicians went, it was always a group dominated by males. It's hard to find one's footing, and discover what one's true talents are, with so few points of reference. More often, I got asked why I wanted to be there in the first place, rather than help and support. Many times, I felt the message was I just didn't belong there and that I should give up trying to.

My interests prior to studying CS had always been (and still are, in part) the more female-friendly areas of art and English. But when I became fascinated with technology, I wanted to learn about how to use it as profoundly as I could. I tried to create ways to connect and combine the two, which has been easily done when it comes to web design and development. In fact, to this day, in every professional position I've held, I was told my creativity was something my employers valued, because it was rare to find in the technical field, and it added an unique aspect to my technical work. However, I've also been told, for presumably the same reasons, that I'm not the "type" to work in tech.

But people aren't types. They're individuals. There's no reason or need to place them all in little boxes or neat, unbreakable compartments. I think there should be much more fluidity between science and art, creativity and logic, minorities and majorities, men and women. My insistence on education and encouragement for those who aren't receiving it comes directly from my own experience of not receiving it myself. Even now solidly placed on my career path and moving ahead, I still sometimes feel I have to catch up. I'm still generally the only female in my workplaces, and I still have it pointed it out me. Sometimes I wonder how much farther I would be if I had had more support in this line of work. But mostly I just focus on providing it to other girls. Because no matter how loudly the media is yelling about the failures of the spoiled, useless young women who clog our popular culture, or how hard it pushes the male geek stereotype, or how strongly it insists women just naturally have different skillsets - I want girls to know the truth.



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