This weekend I had a chance to give a talk at ACM Celebration of Women in Technology event in Wroclaw. This made me think. How long do we still need to celebrate women in technology? When will it finally become a norm to see a woman developer and we will no longer be amazed, confused or surprised by this fact?
Inspired by the amazing and brave women I’ve met at the conference (and having way too many hours to spare on the train back home) I decided to write a short post on why girls should not be scared by the many obstacles in following their dreams and should not be afraid to confront the stereotypes.
This is a list of all the things you don’t have to do to succeed as a developer. I am speaking from my perspective as a Data Scientist. However, I believe all the points are fully applicable to other computer science domains as well.
You don’t have to like Star Wars.
Yes, there is a lot of geeks in computer science, both boys and girls who love comic books and spaceships. Having only a vague idea of who Luke is and never having watched a single series of Star Wars made me uncomfortably silent during multiple conversations. However, it does not mean that there aren’t any other topics you can share with your teammates or even other series or movies that you could discuss.
You don’t have to be the smartest.
Girls usually fail at computer science because they feel intimidated by smarter guys. Boys, on the other hand, are not ashamed of shouting bluntly “I do not understand. This does not make any sense!” We should not be ashamed of our lacks in knowledge but to proudly state: “I know this and this. But of this I have never heard in my life!”
You don’t have to wear glasses and hoodies.
You don’t have to look like a nerd. You don’t have to fit in with the crowd. You can wear your heels, girly dresses and not be afraid of the first impression people have of you. Nevertheless, I love to break the stereotypes and I can’t fight the satisfaction I get after 15 minutes of talking when the other party suddenly realizes that his first impression of you was a major understatement and you are so much smarter than they thought.
You don’t have to be brunette.
Another stereotype that is nonetheless very strong in our society. A couple years ago I went full-on blonde dying my hair. It was surprising (and saddening) that new people I was meeting had a totally different attitude towards me when compared to when I had darker hair. Now I went back to my natural hair colour (which is light brown or dark blonde or something in between) and I no longer care about first impressions.
You don’t have to spend your free time on Reddit and 9gag.
Those two are actually very fun but if you have a different sense of humour, good for you! Once again, if you don’t get the jokes guys make in the office it does not mean you are not a good programmer. As long as those jokes are not offending you in any sense you can just ignore them and have fun in your own way.
You don’t have to prove you belong every day.
Starting a new career or a new job often comes in with an imposter syndrome. Sure, you will make stupid errors. Sure, you will ask stupid questions. Girls usually tend to overreact and worry too much about their mistakes. But guess what, it also means you are going to remember your mistakes better and not make them in the future.
As a girl in the tech world, you often feel like an outsider but it is not always a bad thing. Following the advice of countless motivational stickers, don’t be afraid to be different! Then of course, if you prefer to wear hoodies and talk about Dark Vader it is up to you and feel free to do what you like 🙂