Friday, October 08, 2010

Women in tech: The reality and the movies

I happened upon two articles recently that made a good bookend to the topic of women in technology. The first was published in Salon and titled Female programmers on "The Social Network". This one looks at how women are portrayed in the now film. The second, published in Radar by O'Reilly, is titled Women helping women get into tech.

The former basically shows women as, and I quote, "gold-diggers, drunken floozies and that 'bitch' who got away." If this movie were made as late as the early 90's it wouldn't be an unreasonable assumption (though it would still be incorrect). But we're into the second decade of the 21st century. Women have proven that they are at least the equal of men in the industry. In my experience they are usually better. The latter article is an interview with Sara Chippsco, founder of Girl Develop IT. This is a "place where all questions are OK and everyone can learn in a supportive environment" that is focused on helping women.

My career in the Tech world started in 1982 but I've been a techie allot longer than that. Over the decades I have seen the kind of reactions the male dominated world of tech, particularly the arena of computer programming, women receive. While it has gotten better (subjectively, I admit), most of the time women are either seen as not smart enough so they got the job by "other" means or are hit on by everything with a pulse. In all honesty, I have been guilty of the second characteristic in my youth. But I digress.

During my time, however, I have met some women who were incredible programmers. For a while I worked with a girl named Stef who was, well, I'll never be as good at programming as she was. I have met women who are extremely accomplished programmers that now teach programming. Some have even been my instructors. There was some research recently (apologies, I can't find a reference for it) that showed girls are more capable of understanding and dealing with math than boys. It is only the sociocultural stereotypes that make girls think they can't do math. This is something we need to fix. The Girl Develop IT program is a great step towards rectifying things.

Half the world is girls. To not cultivate and nurture that resource is only holding the advancement of the human race back by centuries. If not eons.
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