Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Fight like a Josi

Meet Josilene Santana, black brazilian woman who code and have opened paths for her and for other women

Her name is Maria Josilene Santana, but you can call her just Josi (“Jozee”, in a portuguese pronounce). She likes her nickname and she will help you with attention, because this is what she does. That’s the way she learned at home, with her mother, Antonieta, her father and eight brothers and sisters, all of them raised in Recife, a city in the Northeast of Brazil. With her family, Josi also learned how dedication, honesty and focus in one’s purpose are needed to build something real. When she was a child, used to help her parents in their little commerce at a street market and selling old furniture.

However, vocation alone is not enough, isn’t it? Even with familiar strength, she had the same perspectives of her sisters: marry, have babies and become a housewife, with all losses this term brings. This was not what Josi wanted. It didn’t make any sense to her. So, she was a teenager who top priority was to seek professional training, a way, she hoped, would take her where no other woman in her family had reached: college and work off home. A non-easy journey for who didn’t have money for private school (since public schools in Brazil are very precarious).

Facing this challenge turned worst when she was 19 and lost her major reference in life, her mother, to whom Josi made a promess during the burial: “I will go to college and you will be proud of me”.

Josi found a job in Petrolina (435 miles from Recife), where she finally could enter college, when she was 24. That was the very first time she could afford a payment for study. Then she picked a promising field, information systems.


When Josi went back to Recife, she felt very unconfortable with the lack of opportunities to women in Information Technology. So she started engaging in projects that have been trying to change this reality. At that point, she helped to bring the Women Who Code Project to Brazil and helped to organize the first edition of the Startup Weekend Women in the country, which took place in João Pessoa (75 miles from Recife), in 2014.

Before this edition of SWW, at the first Startup Weekend Josi ever had participated, an enterpeneurship’s bug bitted her. It had turned on a light which was turned off until then: she could have her own business. She was an entrepeneur and didn’t know. When she figured out, she decided to go with a project created at SW, an app to schedule beauty services. It was a great ideia, but problems with partners and high finance losses shutted down the new business. This experience leaded her to other way: SaaS, a field she already mastered and had a lot to explore.

Since then, Josi have been developing Mangue Tecnologia, a business she created to have a spot in a world that insists to keep her path hard. This year, Mangue Tecnologia turned 5 years old and Josi, at 32, became a reference of high quality services to her clients of web development, SaaS and consulting. Frequently invited to lectures, mentoring, courses and consulting, Josi just doesn’t give up to use her high quality results as a shield against the prejudice women have to face every day.

Life goes on

This is just an abstract of Maria Josilene Santana’s journey. A summary, because that is a lot of battles in this huge — and maybe endless — fight: being a black woman, with humble origins, in a world seriously damaged by sexism and racism. She is also a woman in a market where white men are majority and, regardless their technical abilities, they earn people’s trust. To face all of this, there’s one message from her that I keep in the “inspirational room” of my brain:

Don’t let no one tell you that you won’t get what you want; nor give yourself to the negative thoughts the worse in the world may bring to you. If you just stay weeping, you won’t go anywhere”

Thanks, Josi.

PS: please forgive my english mistakes.
Read this article in portuguese.