Feminism and Professionalism

When I was drafting the the topic I originally wanted to talk about feminism at my place of work, Andela, but the recent turn of events have made me try to figure out what it really means to be a feminist at the same time while being professional. So, recently I changed my linkedin and facebook status to Software Developer at Andela. For those who have no idea what Andela is all about, it is a company that is dedicated to seeing that Africa produces 100,000 world class software developers.

After a few seconds of updating my status to that, a former acquaintance of mine calls me out of nowhere full of curiosity. It started as a warm conversation of friends catching up and remind themselves of old good days. Then, from nowhere he asks this question that irritated me, “Are you sure you will make it in software development field?”. I asked him to elaborate what he meant by that, he goes ahead to tell me stories(which I was and still is pretty sure he was formulating) of how he has met many ladies who complain that software development is hard. At this point what comes to mind is to remind him that did he forget that I already did a course in Electrical Engineering. He acts surprised and, whether he did it consciously or subconsciously he tells me, “I was sure you would switch back to Medicine after one year in Engineering School.” Am irritated by this so I keep quiet.

“I see you also have interest in AI, when did this begin?” I compose myself and explain to him that first of all he had undermined me by the fact that am a lady in tech, secondly I remind him that it is I who chose Electrical Engineering as opposed to Medical course, and thirdly I choose software development because every career/professional step I have made in my life the main focus has always been to understand AI. He apologizes and starts to explain himself. I then realize that it is not only his fault but also the society at large for always assuming that ladies are weak.

Luckily enough I have joined a community, Andela, where people value feminism and professionalism. Andela constitutes female developers who have done and still are doing exemplary stuff in the coding world. People might be having a perception that ladies are being favored during selection process but this is not true. All software developers at Andela merit because we have potential. The only thing that is done different to encourage ladies to apply is by having all female recruitment once in a while based on the fact that, ‘Brilliance is evenly distributed; opportunity is not.’

During induction to Andela, I got to meet Kathryn Minshew, CEO and co-founder of The Muse and our own Christina Sass, COO and co-founder of Andela, who encouraged us and prepared us psychologically on how to deal with discrimination women face in professions that are considered to be men oriented.

By the way, did I mention that Andela bought us movie tickets last weekend to watch “Hidden figures”? Only an organisation that values feminism and professionalism will do so.

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