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Dustin Kreidler
Dustin Kreidler

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The future belongs to ALL of us

My 10 year old daughter is learning to code. In fits and starts, using Khan Academy and other tools, she's drawing pictures using code, making robot avatars walk around and follow directions using code... and she thinks she's just playing. But I'm learning to code, too, and though I'm deep into React and Redux tutorials, I'm seeing the parallels between what I'm actively learning and trying to implement, and what she's just naturally absorbing through a state of play. I make sure to try to normalize her affinity for coding (playing!), telling her how cool it will be to one day be able to see a problem and come up with her own solution in her own way; to be independent, and a force for change. Not in a "girls don't like tech, so it's cool you do" accidentally-sexist way, but in an overall approach of "that's awesome, I love that you're into this."

I hope to see the overall community embrace that approach. Too often, I feel like we're all still patting ourselves on the back for hitting some minimum number of non-male coders... when the mere fact that it's not closer to 50% is a huge telling problem. And the solution (to me) is not to make such a big deal out of those who've already made it up the mountain (though it IS awesome, don't get me wrong) but to work on leveling the mountain so the next generation doesn't have to feel like they're overcoming the same issues however many years later.

I don't mean that in the disingenuous "it's not a big deal, ignore women's accomplishments because they already have equality" way, but in the "actively tear down obstacles and impediments" way. Women have proven (over and over) they can do the (read: any) job just as well as their male counterparts. Younger women shouldn't be expected to have to constantly re-prove the same thing. Put more female voices on podcasts and panels. Put more minority voices in videos and tutorials. Have so many they are literally just part of the background, rather than tokens to be put on a pedestal just for being there, while still enforcing the image of how hard it is to get there in the first place. Because that image is just as damaging, just as intimidating, as if we hadn't made any advances in the first place.

I think of it this way: once upon a time, women weren't allowed to act in the theater (sorry, theatre). Only men could perform, in drag if need be. Fast forward from Shakespearean England to today, and note the much increased comparative gender equality on television. Yes, there is room to grow, but at least now the only men in drag really, really want to be there. Compare that to our relative failings at representing minorities. With some spectacular exceptions, you still rarely find multiple minority characters in television aimed at middle class American viewers. Happily the exceptions are proving the stupidity of the unspoken rules they break, so even that's slowly evolving for the better. "Brainchild" on Netflix might be the ultimate expression of what should be possible: a science show hosted by an Indian-American actress who makes curiosity cool. Even the science authority? Alie Ward. As a white male, I find my lack of representation... refreshing.

The same has to happen for coding, and tech in general. My daughter will be more likely to stick with her "fun games" if she sees herself reflected in the world around her. Women need to be ubiquitous, not enshrined. Minorities need to be ubiquitous, not just tokenized window dressing to provide the veneer of diversity. Hopefully, there are many readers telling me I'm an idiot because they do exactly this. I hope so. I WANT to be proven wrong. I want to look around and see a diverse, multi-ethnic, welcoming community that literally anyone can claim as their own.

The only obstacles to overcome are self-doubt and imposter syndrome... we don't need to add real external obstacles to the list as well.

The future.. belongs to all of us.

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