Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

So, umm, when do we get to hack into the Matrix?

I have to fess up, I’m a very recent coding convert. I had barely written a line of code before I decided I wanted to take the plunge with a development bootcamp (Makers Academy, London). Now, I love it so much, I look back and am a bit baffled that it hadn’t occured to me to try it before. It just never crossed my mind that someone like me could be a “code person”.

Open scene…

We are on the command deck of a battleship. A small group of rebels are trying to save Earth from destruction.

Dashing main protagonist (male, big muscles): It’s 5 minutes till the aliens fire their laser death torpedo.. hurry!

Socially inept yet lovable geek sidekick (male, glasses): Oh no! The code is in non-binary triple-lock Klarghon. I’m going to have to Stack Overflow this one guys…

I think part of the reason I never considered coding as a career path before is due to the way it is totally misrepresented in films and on TV. People who code are always portrayed as if they have some special power, a totally different type of brain to the rest of us. And they always have all the code they need stored in their head, which is just totally unrealistic. They are also, more often that not, portrayed as VSPs (Very Serious People), who look like they would need a training manual to crack a smile.

I mean, just look at this face. Would you want to work with people who had perma-Keanu-face? I didn’t think so..

Even looking at his reflection in a spoon couldn’t help Keanu raise a chortle

Another Very Serious Protagonist is Elliot, of Amazon’s Mr Robot. Now I can’t criticise this with any great authority, as I didn’t make it further than the first two episodes. But that was enough for me. Elliot fits the stereotype of a dysfunctional male loner perfectly. Two of the significant female characters were portrayed as victims, and the female coder in Christian Slater’s tribe of hackers seemed a little token (Look! Girls can be dysfunctional geniuses too! Whilst also being very pretty..).

Elliot was diagnosed as a VSP at the age of 13, and has battled with Keanu-face ever since. Please give generously.

When I started at Makers Academy, I was pleasantly reassured to discover that:

  • Developers are not expected to keep all code ever created in their head at all times — Google and Stack Overflow are a fundamental part of the role.
  • Anyone who loves problem solving and creating stuff can become a developer. My classmates here are a wonderful kaleidoscope of people from different backgrounds, with different motivations for wanting to code. My cohort is 51% women, and 0% VSPs.
  • You can combine code with having a sense of humour. Because in real life, you probably won’t be saving the world from aliens or hacking into the systems of a hostile Government. You’ll mainly be struggling with getting a button to do exactly the thing it is supposed to do. And giggling with your teammates over mildly inappropriate test database entries.

So let’s start portraying programmers as the diverse bunch that we are. We can be female, and/or LGBT, and/or any ethnicity, and — we’re really going to shatter some preconceptions here — we can even be happy.

If you like this post, don’t forget to recommend and share it. Check out more great articles at Code Like A Girl.