‘You’re a developer?!’ This is the shocked response I most commonly receive when asked what I do for a living. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not the typical introverted developer type. Or maybe it's the fact that I’m a woman. Either way, being my undeniable girl shaped self, sadly does make me an anomaly in most developer teams.
I’ve never stopped to think much about why there are so few women around me because frankly it's never been an issue for me. Where some might see it as a disadvantage to be in amongst the guys, having to fight for respect, responsibility and the good projects that come with it, I’ve only ever viewed it as a positive. I’ve enjoyed being the novelty, knowing that employers remember me when pitted against male candidates, surprising people when, shockingly, I am actually good at my job.
But, have I been approaching this the wrong way? Should I stop fighting so hard to compete in a man's world and fight harder to make it an equal one?
In truth, my experiences have differed working in and out of the city. Where women developers are sadly not the norm is in smaller, more rural agencies, and by contrast, I’ve found more and more London companies are tipping the scales in that direction. It would even not be unheard of to encounter reverse discrimination; companies choosing to hire a women for a job to boost their diversity credentials. It is an unwritten and spoken taboo - but it almost certainly happens.
I’m not sure this is winning the battle. The issue doesn’t lie in whether women are capable of being a developer - I can assure that gender is completely irrelevant, as with many jobs. As I see it, the problem arises much earlier at school and is a continuation of the age-old problem of lack of women in science. With a huge shake-up to the way computing is taught in schools and large government initiatives such as codeclub, the hope is that the next generation of girls will receive more encouragement to head into technical careers. On paper the initiative, Girls who Code is a wonderful break in convention. That said, it is still largely focused on the USA and when you put the number of 40,000 into the context of a population of nearly 165 million females, it is a mere dot. Here’s hoping that the UK does more to encourage the next wave.
However, until the time comes when there is an even split across the industry, we have to alter our view on what it is to be a developer. I can assure you that it is tiring being looked upon as different and prior to my current role constantly having my gender irrelevantly remarked on is unnecessary and unwelcome. It is therefore my view that we should embrace the different people around us, as exactly that… People and perhaps not be so surprised when a female developer joins the team.
Sarah's Top Tips!
- Never stop learning
- Passion and enthusiasm are the best foot in the door
- Don't be afraid to try jobs out - I started as a designer and transitioned to a developer, finding a good company to work for is far more important