Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

I wouldn’t be here if I was a boy

/Photo: Oscar Keys/

I would’ve been here years ago

My career in technology began with playing video games when I was a girl. The power of creating, fascinating world of information, and an strange way of understanding it, got me hooked on tech. I would spend hours staring at the screen, clicking, browsing and typing. The amusement I got from the games that were simple, ugly, yet somehow so wonderful, was something I found hard to get elsewhere.

I would write stories, wander around the internet, play games and search for new ones every day. I would try to explain it to my parents, yet they wouldn’t quite understand. But they never stopped me. They were sure I was getting something valuable out of it. They were amazed of the skills I had, with an machine they hardly knew how to use. They encouraged me by giving me the privilege to spend time on the computer as much as I pleased, meanwhile other parents were worried about the “affects it would have to our next generation”.

I loved computers. Computers that were seen as a boyish thing. Video games were seen as “boys entertainment”. Since computers are machines, they weren’t seen as suitable for girls, like dolls. I grew to love computers, something that other girls didn’t do. I learned to do things with computer that adults in my life couldn’t do. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I really liked it.

Ten years later, I was still playing games. I was still using computers, and so was everyone else. Yet I had the skills to go further than them. I was interested about the things happening “behind the scenes”, and spent my free-time getting to know inventions and inventors.

By this time I had other interests too. I had been playing the violin for ten years, I was acting at a local theatre and loved painting with my father. I loved creating and using my imagination, no matter how I expressed my creativity. I, like my peers, was struggling to figure out what I wanted to study. What I wanted to become, and what would be my profession.

As a result of a lot of thinking and feeling pressured at times, I decided . I decided I would become a nurse and attended nursing school. It felt like a good fit, since I was drawn to caring for people. It felt appropriate, since I was a young woman. It felt exciting, since I was fascinated by psychology.

Five years later, I was a nurse. I wasn’t playing games. I wasn’t writing. I couldn’t afford an computer, and I had stopped playing the violin. I hardly ever saw my father, nor did I paint with him. I was working my ass off, 10–12 hour shifts, making money to live on my own. I liked my job — but it wasn’t giving me a life that I wanted. In fact, I found that I hated my life, a life that I had chosen.

Studying to become and then working as nurse, taught me more things than I expected. The value of work, and the value of the capability to work. The value of life, and the value of living. It made me a humble, brave and a strong person, but it also made me numb.

I kept wondering, how did I end up with this life. I used to have so many dreams, and to be honest, being a nurse wasn’t one of them. By the end of a 12- hour shift I wouldn’t have the energy to question my choices, so I kept going. Until I found myself unemployed. I had all the time in the world to realize I was going in the wrong direction. I was throwing away the talents I had, and the talents I loved. I was a great nurse, yet I could be even greater in an other career.

So I started to study programming. I realized that as an independent developer I could combine all the bigger things I dreamt about, with the smaller things I was already talented in. I had the time and energy to learn something new, and I loved it. I saw endless possibilities, and endless number of paths to choose from. And I wasn’t afraid to share my feelings. I told people how I was suddenly as thrilled about computers as I was 15 years ago. I found that I wasn’t living a life that I hated anymore. I was happy and excited. That’s when one of my friends said;

“If you we’re a boy you would’ve never gone to nursing school and choose a wrong career. You could already be a pro.”

Her words hurt. Her words made me frustrated, and worst of all; she was right. If I was a boy, I would’ve never gone to nursing school. I know gender roles kicked in when I was making a giant decision as a 16 -year old. I know I would’ve never stopped playing around with computers, if other girls hadn’t made fun of me. It feels even worse when I know that there are other girls like me. Girls who choose the obvious, and safe decision instead of following their dreams and interests.

Yet still, I wouldn’t change my past for anything. Being a nurse is a part of me, and will always be. It taught me to be hardworking, determined, talented with people, and emotionally strong. Without all the people I’ve met throughout my nursing career, I would’ve missed too many inspiring stories, and too many sad destinies. My time as a nurse has made me stronger and more resilient. I would be a lot more vulnerable when being criticized, or hurt.

Most importantly; if I hadn’t been a nurse, I wouldn’t have the experience and understanding to know what kind of apps to build to help their work. I would have no clue about their potential as a niche market. I wouldn’t know how to help hardworking nurses in their daily tasks, yet alone how important that is.

So my answer to my friend is yes. You’re right. Absolutely, 100% correct. And it saddens me, but not for myself. For other young girls, and for other women. And now that I see that my friend is right — that my path to becoming a developer happened the way it is because I am a girl, I’ll put a new task to my to-do-list:

Pave the way for young girls like I once was.

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