A Successful Woman Speaks About Gender In IT

Every time that a client visited the company or a new employee was hired, management would stop at my desk and point out that I was a woman. It sometimes felt like being a freak in a circus. It was unpleasant to be seen as something other than a skilled programmer. I once turned down a job offer because they really wanted to have a woman among their 40 male developers. I immediately thought of other candidates who will be turned down merely because they were male. The decision process seemed unfair. My sense of justice could not allow that, so I removed myself from the equation and gave all these men a fair chance.

And so every time that a conference asks for more women to submit, I am reminded of that job interview. Since having more women is a clear objective, then all decisions have to be weighed against it. Sure, we all want to think that we are not biased, but we are. As soon as we make something our mission, it inevitably affects our decisions. For me, conferences have nothing to do with gender. Gender is irrelevant. We’re here to talk about technology. When presented with two proposals on the same topic, I hope that a woman would not automatically win because someone wants to see a pie chart with equal slices. That is not what equal opportunity means. I am a woman, and I don’t want unfair advantages.

Do we really need to turn gender distribution into a problem? How exactly will the world be a better place with more women speakers? It’s just a number in a spreadsheet that some choose to find annoying. I’ll tell you what’s really annoying: people not automating tests, people withholding information about threats to projects, people not indexing their database tables or over-indexing them, people not using any cache, people skipping software analysis and design, etc. These are the beast that we need to slay. The rest is just a distraction, ready to suck all our time and deviate us from the path to knowledge and collaboration. When you review my application, please consider my skills, my character and the relevance of the topic for your audience. Don’t worry about my gender.

*That* is what a successful attitude looks like. Bravo, Anna. Via Anna Filina » IT Is About Technology, Not About Gender.

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15 thoughts on “A Successful Woman Speaks About Gender In IT”

  1. One reason why “gender distribution [is] a problem” is that studies going back to the 1960s show that mixed teams are more stable, and at least as productive, as single-sex teams of similarly-qualified people.

    If mixed teams are more productive and more stable, as both the literature and my own experience indicate, then encouraging that practice is not simply a matter of social justice but of economic and professional collective survival, as it helps us, or at least that team, argue against the commoditisation of our craft. And, personally, if a woman with roughly equivalent skills is chosen over me for a job I’d been fighting for, I’d be fine with that. I know that she’s had to work five times as hard to get half as far.

    Just ask Kathy Sierra.

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