Something something about being a female developer

Diversity in the workplace has been one of the most discussed topics for a couple of years now. There’s no doubt there is something going on that filters many women away from advancing their careers, and I agree that the practical benefit goes beyond having a more larger and more diverse talents in STEM, because all about the problem that has to do with bad cultures, end up being harmful for the progress of most organization in their current state. But primarily is the sense of fairness on society that moves the discussion.

As a woman and a Software Developer, I haven’t figured out my own stance on the matter of how far we devote to gender diversity while not expecting those around them to support you. Either letting things slip nor asserting your uneasiness can give you a good or bad reputation at your workplace, I’ve been lucky enough to not have been confronted myself on a situation where I felt like I had to choose, but I understand why that would terminate women’s pursuit for ambition.

Of course I’ve been in situations when it’s my turn to speak in a 15-people meeting and the rest of the attendees won’t let me finish the first sentence, finding myself shushing them over and over until someone jumps in and tell them to knock it off. I’ve also been in situations where we discuss a technical matter and someone points out the large history of things I’ve criticized, because, like everyone technical around, guess what, we all criticize everything. But it didn’t make me feel vulnerable, because just like these situations are going to keep happening for long, I’ve been able to find my way through those who want to cooperate, and someone those are the same who slip often.

I can disagree and identify with enough from the narrative of both feminists and non-allies, giving me an extremely fuzzy idea of what’s currently happening and what efforts are worthy. I can’t just pick sides. But what is there to pick? It’s clear that there’s a diversity problem (crisis?); it might be counterintuitive to acknowledge that and not just say “yes”: to incentive younger girls to follow their ambitions and make women feel just as valued (hence motivated) as their male peers. But are we falling in other implications? is it possible that we’re sending the wrong message?.

We need societal norms to change in order to let women reach their potential. Or do we?

Don’t get me wrong here, I do think social pressure plays big part on our leakage of talent. Some norms were more appropiate long ago, but validating them by wishing expectations to disappear for us before taking part on that ideal seems foolish to me. We’ve gotta render them useless by showing that they aren’t valid anymore. Refraining because of some norm with no practical purpose today not only reinforces that rule, but also the notion that society won’t change in other aspects either.

I think the problem about societal norms is not just the fact that we will never match them unless we give up our own self-image, but we are giving too much credit to what most strangers think about us. We need to encourage underrepressented groups that the social norm is not important, not just because it might directly impact career decisions, but because letting them shape people takes away their potential and ability to develop.

I’m tired of a narrative that repeats how disappointing it is when someone acts surprised that a woman is actually a good at something, instead of focusing on the impact you’re having. One time I was playing Smash Bros with coworkers and some new people, most of them coming from nearby towns; we had an 8-player match to include them; at the end it was me VS one of the nasty players, and then one of the new ones shouted “let her win, she’s a girl”, our response was “ain’t no such thing in this place” as if we were an orchestrated chorus. That not only reinforces that there’s a point where expectations don’t matter, I’m also sure that they aren’t going to last.

Not long ago I spoke at a GIS day conference on Sonora about the lack of women in STEM, both my partner and I agreed that we didn’t experience discrimination and that might have been a major factor for us to become engineers. After thinking more about it, I can recall circumstances when I’m sure I’ve been pressured out of my career choices because I’m a woman, but I’ve been pressured out of so many things for so many reasons that at some point I stopped caring. I just didn’t care about rejection.

We all have to adapt

I hope it doesn’t sound to much like “gotta grow thicker skin”, because even though the feminist ideal of a workplace as a safe place for everyone is how I think should be in reality, today it’s not, and it’s going to take either certain type of character which doesn’t give a damn about looking bad or the courage to hold on for long enough to help us become part of the norm. Maybe the growing that thicker skin has some degree of validity, repeated offenders don’t acknowledge their responsibility and they should, but we’re also responsible of what we count on, I wouldn’t like to have to count on everyone being thoughtful.

No woman should accommodate men to make them feel comfortable, I’m literally saying “we ALL have to adapt”. Just like feminism wants women to stop being portrayed as dependent, vain and emotionally unstable; I would love girls-in-stem advocates to stop acting as if the girls were needing others to (figuratively) open the door for them, if they do, we haven’t done such a great job encouraging them, have we?.

Girls should not only be convinced that it’s cool to be a girl in STEM, but to stand for their own self-development regardless of if it’s going to be welcome or not, we need them to be innovators who know what they want. Speak more about overcoming insecurity and don’t stop on the part when others made you feel insecure.

In my own previous experience at Commons Machinery and currently at Nearsoft, I’ve maybe been too lucky to work in places with such an awesome atmosphere. I’m sure the culture is important, in both places we were free of power games and handled the personalities of each other, just like the capable, cocoa-krispies-loving adults we are.

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