International Women’s Day – Girls in Tech

There are definitely too few girls in technology. My experiences as a female engineer in a crowd of men, tell me this is so. It’s not a negative comment about men: I’ve been mentored by, and worked with some lovely, brilliant, inspiring men – still some of my best friends. I’ve been fortunate that way. But where are the girls in technology? Technology moves, evolves and races ahead through the communities of individuals , their ideas and their work. What ideas, what direction are we missing because of this shortage?

Aside from having the opportunity to ‘play’ with computers’ (which is why I think Hacksaurus is so important), I recognize the tremendous influence of one of my earliest employers. I’m pretty sure I was hired based on my enthusiasm because certainly hadn’t accomplished much, I would have mopped floors around programmers to work in the industry (the equivalent I found was decoding pages and pages of spreadsheet formulas). I was intimidated, painfully quiet & almost completely without confidence in my technical opinion. That slowly changed through a series of positive comments and successes – ‘You’re smart, you can figure it out’, ‘Brilliant job’. ‘Brilliant job’ came through ICQ one day..and I printed it out…and stuck it on my monitor at home to remind myself that someone I respected, thought I could do it – so I must be able to. Is this because I was a woman? Is this something women need? I can’t speak for all women, but it mattered to me.

Aside from a positive learning environment, I was pummelled with difficult work: challenging, difficult, technical work a scope of which was wayyy outside my comfort zone. This was the second thing this early employer/mentor did. He didn’t only use words, he made me responsible, accountable. Again, I can’t speak for all women, but this made a huge difference for me. Being pushed outside, over the hill of your comfort zone is actually a very empowering experience (at the end :).

Although sometimes it doesn’t help when men forget we’re in the also in the audience: sexism

I had the opportunity to listen to one of my idols (in Open Source & Drupal) Angela Byron speak during Open Web Vancouver 2009. She really did a great job of separating emotion from science an the challenges of women in open source – with a few things to think about. It was with some shock that I listened to statistics like ( 28% of proprietary software developers are women, while ONLY 1.5 % of Open Source contributors are women!).