I’ve been working in the tech industry in some way or another for about 6 years now. In that time, I’ve seen the landscape shift a million times but even now, the view is oddly similar to the way it was years ago — a sea of dudes. Simply attend any tech conference and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Frankly, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’m outraged by this gender imbalance, but I’m not blind to the fact that it’s concerning.
Although the entire issue at hand is far too complex to narrow down into a singular problem, let alone pinpoint a solution, I’m going to attempt to break this down into one simple suggestion that might make life as a woman in tech a little easier and perhaps lower the barrier to entry for others.
Stop ignoring the fact that I’m a woman.
And this goes for all people in tech. Identifying as a woman means you inherently experience life differently than others who don’t identify as such. That’s obvious. The tech industry is driven by innovation, and we need different points of view to continue innovating. Pretending like being a woman doesn’t make one different is not only unrealistic, it is detrimental to the industry at large. Both men and women are capable of the same caliber of ideation but approaches will always vary and that has to be embraced, not ignored.
Truth is, I’ve been guilty of doing everything in my power to make people look past the fact that I’m a woman (or young, or gay) because I felt that I wasn’t taken as seriously because of it. In many instances that was necessary, discrimination is real in every profession and it’d be naive to say it isn’t, but denying an inherent part of oneself isn’t the solution. Acknowledging someone as having a different perspective does not mean that you are discriminating, it means you are aware of the depth of that person and the way every part of them (including gender, race, age and sexuality) plays in shaping their outlook and, in turn, their value.
I don’t believe diversity is not seeing people as different than you, it’s knowing how and why they are different and understanding the importance of that.
Design and code are universal languages of their own that benefit from the most dynamic environment possible. For the sake of continuing to advance the digital experiences of the modern world, we need actively be recruiting people with different perspectives into this world, making it easy for them to feel comfortable innovating and embracing the things that make these perspectives possible.
All of the initiatives that encourage young girls, and kids in general, to take an interest in the tech industry are incredibly important and should not go unnoticed. But those efforts will be for nothing if we don’t show these budding techies that every part of them, not just their coding skill, is a valuable asset to the advancement of the industry climate. That’s how you breed humans that are willing to create change in an inclusive environment, understanding their value and allowing them to wear those colours proudly. If we don’t, shit’s going to get really boring really quickly and that’s no fun at all.