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Women in IT – Thoughts Triggered by a Female Colleague

05.09.2012
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This post is coming quite a way after the fact, but I just read this tweet from Pamela Fox and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to mention this for ages.

Back in November at Devoxx here in Belgium, one of the major themes was women in IT*. I asked my female colleague (who is, by the way, an exceptional developer but I’m not going to name her because I haven’t asked permission!) if she was attending any of the talks. She said no, and then went on to explain her viewpoint.

I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but the gist of the argument was “software developers are already a minority, and I don’t like the idea of creating an unnecessary sub-minority“.

This surprised me a lot. From one point of view, I can see where she’s coming from – as software developers, we’re already regarded (to a lesser or greater degree) as a bit strange**, and we need to hang together if we’re going to avoid being hung separately. From another viewpoint, however, it ignores the marginalisation of women by men who are in the same industry. I was going to use the word victimisation, but I’ve never witnessed it personally (and you can be damn sure it wouldn’t happen twice in my presence, regardless of the gender of the victim) – maybe a commenter can bring me up to speed on this?

I’ve been lucky enough through my career to work with some exceptional developers who happened to be female. In fact, I’ve never worked with a female developer who was any less than excellent – but there’s probably a very good reason for that. Since the overwhelming majority of developers are men, it follows that the majority of bad developers are also men. I’m pretty crappy with statistics, and they can famously be made to say anything, but it seems to me that the women who punch through the marginalisation barrier do so based on skill, and thus skew the figures even more.

Right now, I’m feeling very concious about what I’m writing, with the usual thoughts of sounding patronising and, frankly, feeling like the kind of dipshit who dumps his brain into his blog only to get it run through a blender. C’est la vie.

* The chivalrous part of me wasn’t sure to use women, ladies, girls or females. Since “Men in IT” is what I would write if this were about men, the feminine noun seems to me to be the correct one.
** Strange, in this case, defining a group of people who will have vitriolic arguments over the formatting of JavaScript, for example.

Published at DZone with permission of Steve Chaloner, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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