Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Women developers wanted

Part 1: Chicago Roboto

I spent the last two days at the first Chicago Roboto conference. There were some really informative topics and knowledgeable speakers, and the organizers, John Wilker (@jwilker), Jerrell Mardis (@jerrellmardis), and Ryan Harter (@rharter), really made an effort to get everything right, and even opened a Slack group for the attendees to connect.

Making sure that attendees knew ahead of time that they were not providing breakfast was very considerate. (I attended a conference last year where it was not made clear that no food would be provided for either breakfast or lunch, and people were “hangry” by lunchtime. So I really appreciated the heads up on that.) Lunch was great, though. The organizers had arranged for local restaurants to accept lunch vouchers to be paid for by the conference. By doing that, attendees had more options available (i.e. for dietary restrictions and/or preferences), and we got to try local food instead of typical hotel catered lunch. (Thankfully the weather was good, and to my knowledge, there were no physically handicapped individuals that might not have been able to walk several blocks for lunch.)

With regard to diversity, 32% of the speakers were female (higher than industry average). There was some cultural diversity in both speakers and attendees, and people flew in from all around the world to be there. There were not nearly enough women attendees, however. The total number of attendees was 180, but the number of women was only around 25–30, or 13%–18% (I don’t have the exact count.) That is quite low. It may be that as a whole, the percentage of women developers doing Android development is just lower than those developing in Ruby, Python or Javascript. I don’t know the answer.

I thought the Slack was a very good idea, so I took it a step further and added a #women_dev_inclusive channel. I invited all the women I could find in the Slack team member list into that channel, and we used that to communicate and organize a couple of photo opportunities. At the end, I put together a quick Google form for the women who would like to keep in touch, and shared the link to the list of responses.

photo tweeted was supplied by @abaotic

Part 2: Drained

Before getting into this field, I had not been aware of just how few women are working as developers. Since that realization, I try to find ways to make the women developers I see at Meetups, events and conferences feel comfortable. I try to be extra friendly and helpful, and introduce women I meet to other women. My goal is to connect us all for support and encouragement. Being an introvert by nature, though, means I am drained completely afterwards.

I still feel out of place quite often, and I am sure others do, too. For me, it has nothing to do with the male-female ratio, but rather because I am new to tech. I only started learning last May (age 43) and I feel the most “imposter syndrome” at conferences where the talks are quite often over my head. I understand parts, and am interested in them, but the more technical the presentation is, the more I start to doubt myself. I deal with this inner struggle by forcing myself to communicate more instead of less. I get way out of my comfort zone and surround myself with smart people by attending everything possible. After each, I try to be satisfied that I have at least learned something new and it gives me additional direction.

I am asking you now to help. Support women you know who are in tech, be an ally. We need more women developers and more cultural diversity, too. If you are a woman developer yourself, make sure to attend events and make your presence known. If women don’t see other women in tech roles, it can be discouraging. Let’s show each other support and encouragement. I’m in this with you. Are you ready?