I attended the Women’s Circle DevC event at ihub Nairobi on the 17th of this month, which was quite interesting to say the least.
Towards the end, something sparked up a very involving discussion. Are female only developer meetups necessary? The best way to come up with an answer is by thinking about why they are held in the first place.
Developer meetups are held very often here in Nairobi and quite a number of people attend them, unfortunately, ladies are very few every time. Organizers of these meetups have always wondered why this is the case. Is word not spreading widely enough? Are ladies not interested in meeting other people in the same industry, or could it be due to the feeling of intimidation that comes from being in an industry whose majority occupants are male? My money is on the latter.
I’d be lying if I said I am not intimidated by being a girl in the software development world. Just like may female devs out there, I always wonder whether I am good enough, whether I should ask question and risk sounding “stupid”, whether I should go on, or just quit while I still have time… and the emotional and mental turmoil goes on… however, I think the biggest mistake is to let all this show. I mean why would anyone take us seriously if we do not believe in ourselves?
During the discussion that happened on the 17th, the argument that caught my attention was that female devs need a “safe space” or “safe haven” to express themselves. I think because we believe that, then it is a sign we do not fully believe in ourselves as developers, and we are stereotyping ourselves in a way in this world that is starting to warm up to female developers.
Women started programming as early as in the 19th century with the pioneer being Ada Lovelace, the first person (notice I said person and not woman) to write the world’s first machine algorithm for an early computing machine. Someone had to be the first, and it happened to be a woman. She worked alongside Charles Babbage in inventing the Analytical Engine.
Another pioneer of computer programming is Grace Hooper, a computer scientist in the early 1900’s. She invented one of the first compiler related tools, popularized the idea of machine independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, a high level programming language that is still in use almost a century later.
Some women have also risen to leadership roles of giant tech companies, like Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprises from November 2017 to February 2018 and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo from July 2012 to June 2017.
Between the 1800’s and now, very many women have left a mark in the computing world, and have faced the same challenges and worse than we have. But if they did not take and own their stand alongside their male counterparts, then no one would be talking or learning about them now. Maybe even programming would not be as we know it now.
Female programmers need to let intimidation be what drives them to leave their comfort zones and believe they are equal to male developers, and I don’t think that will ever happen as it should if we accept to be a stereotype that mostly exists in our heads.
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained” -Marie Curie.