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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Advice On Being an Ally to Women in the Software Industry

First, a quick note about #shecoded on DEV.

We're proud to be elevating voices of women in the community today, International Women's Day 2019.


Stories from women who code.

She Coded is meant to shine a light issues women face in the software industry while also being positive and uplifting. This is the third year we've done this, and while no message can resonate the right way with everyone, each year we get so much amazing feedback about this day that it is clear the efforts are not being made in vain.

On being an ally

This is a complex topic, so I'm not going to make it exhaustive, but I'll offer one piece of advice and few points additional bullet points. Most of this applies to being an ally to marginalized and underrepresented folks in general, but since it is International Women's Day, I definitely have that in mind as I write.

Staying quiet is a great alternative to "well, actually"

Deep down, I'm a "well, actually" kind of person, if I'm being honest. I rely on some accrued self-awareness to overcome this. I'm a nerd who wants to get to the facts of a topic and insert my opinion. And while I still pipe in too much in conversation from time to time, I've really learned the value of silence.

Most of the time, your "well, actually" is missing the point. You may think you're pointing out the reality of the situation, but you're actually just missing the point. Being technically correct on the matter at hand with no regard for the much bigger picture.

I see Internet commenters try hard to invalidate journalism that reports on the subject of gender equality or social justice in general. Yes, writers sometimes draw overreaching conclusions when they're reporting on data, but no, that doesn't mean the top comment always needs to be about that. I could get deep in to the rabbit hole as to why this is illogical, but I'll just stay pretty high level and say that the line between evidence and anecdote is less clear than you think.

Sitting back and listening, and basically staying quiet more often than feels natural, is such a great skill to learn.

A few more points

  • Once you've learned to be quiet, you can then learn to speak up on behalf of allies, but even this can overshadow people. Be thoughtful about this and listen when given more advice on this topic.
  • Society is truly designed to associate masculine traits with success and competence in the workplace. Seek to notice this in the world. The same behavior in men and women are judged on different scales, and even things we think of as somewhat specific aptitudes like coding ability are not ever judged outside of our constructed society.
  • Being an ally can make you feel guilty or even depressed sometimes. Learn self care.
  • Follow underrepresented folks online. It's a great way to pitch in and learn about different types of personalities in the industry. Following a bunch of folks who wrote in the #SheCoded tag on DEV today is a great place to start.

Thanks for reading

I hope I provided some useful info, and if anyone thinks I gave inappropriate advice, feel free to reach out and I'll make some changes to this post.

The coding industry is better when it's for everyone.

Top comments (6)

desi profile image
Desi • Edited

Thanks for posting this! I had a frustrating moment at work yesterday and when venting to a (male) co-worker afterward, his response was "yeah, I noticed that was happening." If you're a dude in tech and see female-presenting co-workers being talked over, invalidated, or anything else, that's a great moment to be an ally and call it out!

lgraziani2712 profile image
Luciano Graziani

This is a fabulous thread for identifying wrong behaviour!

I too apply the "stay quite" advice. I think it helps to open your mind about other perspectives. It's a good advice to apply to other situations too!

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

You learn so much by being a quiet listener!

j_mplourde profile image
Jean-Michel Plourde • Edited

Follow underrepresented folks online. It's a great way to pitch in and learn about different types of personalities in the industry. Following a bunch of folks who wrote in the #SheCoded tag on DEV today is a great place to start.

I made this my mission when I joined twitter. I could have easily just follow a bunch of white men sharing the same ideas and career goals, but I decided this platform would be to follow people that are the complete opposite of me. From time to time, I had the impression that I was just seeing rants after rants and found that anoying. Then I stopped and thought: I see this frequently and repetition seems "annoying" but there is real injustices that I wasn't seeing even if they are right under my eyes.

I'm glad I did this from the start. Everyday, I'm exposed to difficult realities other have to live with, it makes me rethink how I see life with my biases and privileges.

jrohatiner profile image

Your message is real and demonstrates a truly thoughtful, empathetic response to the issue of inequality. In a perfect world all men would adopt your grace and humility. I know I speak for all women by applauding your efforts.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Thank you Liz!