good women developers…rare because women can’t be specialists?

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Recently I received an article from the wall street journal entitled, “Men write code from mars, women write more helpful code from venus“, and as girl surrounded by quite a few male developers, I forwarded it to the dev team with some random comment about “Girls are great developers” and that they better be ready for it, because I had already commented the entire code base out with kisses.  Meg, our other girl developer, said, “Girls are just better in general!” and we were all laughing, when Rob, another developer piped in, “Boys are better in specific!”  to further laughs.

But he continued, “Girls aren’t good at specializing.  Genetically that’s just the way it is.  Scientific studies have proven it.”

Meg said she refused to engage with that comment, but I honestly couldn’t believe that he believed it.  Basically he was saying that women couldn’t become the best in a field because of genetics. I asked, what about people like Margaret, another girl at our office, who is both his friend and a very smart developer. No, he said, women that did succeed were the exception, just as some women were taller than men, even though most men are taller than women.

My initial reaction: wow, does that level of sexism really still exist?

I do believe that women and men think differently, but I don’t think that has any bearing on whether you could be the best in a field.  Using examples from history is unfair because emancipation of women has been so recent and so incomplete. Women are still primary caregivers and housekeepers, even now, and specialization requires copious amounts of dedicated time.

But at the same time, every year there are more and more women in these formerly male-dominated fields.  The fact that I know and talk to so many incredibly intelligent, specialist women suggests things are different than he says. My question, I guess is, why aren’t there more female developers?

I ask the two girls at my office all the time about it, because I’m just starting, and their best comments were:

Meg: Developers are arrogant and it’s intimidating sometimes being a girl going into it. You have to be quite confident to go into it.

Margaret: It’s not that the guy developers know more than you… they just won’t admit it when they don’t.  Basically the training is learning how to hide your inabilities.

Okay, my feminist rant is over.  I will get my revenge by being the next css guru. Oh but wait, I am a tall girl, aren’t I?



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