Today is Women’s Day, and what better time to toast those women who have made a smart and nontraditional career choice — that of the professional programmer.
In our profession, women have sadly become quite a rarity. They are already underrepresented in enrolment for programming education, and many women I studied with changed focus during the course of their studies. Luckily this trend has improved. There are increasingly more girls both enrolled and finishing studies in programming. When women in tech are being praised, the focus is usually on those who enter leading positions. Therefore this post will focus on women working as developers. It’s not that I don’t value women in other roles as well, but I miss them among us developers for the strengths they bring.
It’s a cliche to mention soft skills when we talk about women in tech, and of course they have all the hard skills too, but that’s often what makes the difference between a homogeneous and a diverse environment. Anyone who has served in the army or been to other male-dominated environments knows what that can lead to. Locker-room talk is not just an excuse Donald Trump made up. I’ve been to many locker-rooms, and heard lots of things that never would be said with women present (not here in FINN though). I’m no fan of such behaviour, and in a diverse environment, I feel more certain that I won’t see any of this.
More importantly, while many men fear they will be looked upon as weak when they need help, women are often more open when they find things difficult. And when something is addressed as difficult, people tend to make it easier. Everybody wins!
Developers also have a reputation for being a homogeneous group of pimply, geeky, Star Trek fans who are all sharing the same narrow minded interests. More diversity will change this image and make our profession more attractive for those in the younger generation who feel alienated by this stereotype. Diversity is also good for business. A diverse team is better suited to understand the needs of a diverse market.
Fortunately, there are some women who have discovered their love for programming. I have made a short list of women who stand out. Some are my personal favourites, others are suggestions from my colleagues. I have intentionally omitted women who work at FINN.no, even though many of them also earn a place on the list.
Let’s start with someone who I have been lucky enough to meet in person. We both spoke at last year’s Web Rebels conference, and she gave a great talk about how to understand other people’s code. She co-founded TurtleSec, where she is teaching and programming C++. Previously she has worked on the Opera and Vivaldi browsers. She is currently running a project which aims to bring more diversity to tech, something that makes her an obvious candidate for this list. @pati_gallardo
When I asked my colleagues for candidates to this list, Christin was mentioned by many. She works as a programmer at the small, but well respected consultancy Kodemaker, which has frequently been used by FINN. She has several popular talks and blog posts about code quality and the practical dilemmas we face at work. @ChristinGorman
Another suggestion from my colleagues was Anette Bergo. She is a leader of the data science team at Bouvet in Bergen, and organizes the Booster Conference in the same city. She is also speaking at conferences, particularly about machine learning. @anettebgo
Moving out of my own country, this blind, purple-haired developer is another woman I’ve had the privilege to meet in person. In addition to be running her newly started company TetraLogical, she is member of a number of groups in W3C, which means that she has a hand on the wheel of the future of the web. She is also a busy blogger and speaker, and one of the leading minds on web accessibility. @LeonieWatson
A sign that I haven’t been attending enough conferences lately is that I still haven’t seen Sara Soueidan on stage. You don’t need to google many front end conferences before her name pops up. This Lebanese freelancer is a busy blogger and well respected in the front end community on social media. @SaraSoueidan
…and all the rest
The list could have been longer, but this article has a deadline that cannot be pushed. Also, we mustn’t forget all the female developers who don’t write blogs or speak at conferences. Those who are just doing their job, and do it brilliantly.