Gender, app dev and perspectives

Paula on October 12, 2017

Since I started engineering I barely noticed the fact I'm a woman and most of my classmates or coworkers aren't. This is because, apart from the fa... [Read Full]
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This is something I was surprised to run into myself. When I first started in the tech industry a lot of people were like "You are going to run into a lot of hard wall as a woman", "You won't be taken seriously because you are woman", "The tech industry is a man's world", etc, etc. At first I blew it off because I felt come on, I was a developer, I was passionate about tech and the industry, and I felt it's 2017, people.

The time for someone to be judged for their gender is over. I was extremely surprised when I did run into problems due to my gender. I was completely amazed that I WASN'T taken seriously, I often was talked over, and given a very hard time fitting in to departments. I dealt with the condescending clients and my judgment being ignored in favor of another developer's male perspective. It was something that was a bit hard come to terms with but I found if you plant your feet hard enough and are confident that you can overcome these sorts of things.

I'm a firm believer that my skills are what carry me through in the industry and I can learn anything. As for being a woman and a developer, I don't see how the two relate, but it is something that is very prevalent still as something that is not quite the norm yet. I think a "woman's perspective" shouldn't be something we consider a negative thing but should address it as something valuable because we've conquered the garbage and still hung in there to be able to give our perspective.

 

This might describe a bit how you're feeling.

I don't think there is a silver bullet, as everyone comes at this issue with different experiences. Seems like you felt pretty tokenized. For what it's worth, I think it's possible to be thoughtful about how gender dynamics might affect a situation without having to address someone as a woman and treating people of underrepresented like others. Dancing around an issue when it should be addressed is also not right in its own context.

It's a lot of little things for me and it usually boils down to doing a lot of listening and learning a lot of little lessons as you go.

 

Well, you are right that he had a good intention. On a pure logic, gender should be irrelevant in performing a job. So, just asking for your opinion should have sufficed and I understand your experience of gender irrelevancy in doing what you love. I agree.

I think there's enough people doing the job of seeing this in a skeptical and cynical light (which is important as is important to question everything), so I'll instead suggest an alternative view:

From what I understand, what he really said was "we need a perspective that us men are too blind to see". In my eyes, it's a compliment.

 

"Do you think my gender has anything to do with my job as a developer?"

It does tangentially, as gender is one of the many ways you bring diversity to a team, but it doesn't have anything to do with your job as a developer. If your classmate treated you like any other classmate, then that's all he needed to do to make you feel included. I'm guessing some of your friends said, "He was just trying to be nice and include you in the discussion". But your classmate could have done that without calling out what made you different from the rest of the group. A simple, "What do you think?" would have sufficed.

 

I guess if everyone else in the room was a man and we were making UX decisions I might be tempted to ask the lone woman whether we were missing anything obvious due to our homogeneity. I don't think it's a good idea to single someone out and ask it as a straightforward question though, it could have been more a case of, "Does anyone think we're missing anything or excluding any groups?"

I think gender unfortunately still has a lot to do with your experience in work. For instance, I've run up against clients with serious attitude problems when working with women (particularly in old-school sectors like financial institutions).

Do I think it makes you better/worst/just different in some kind of undefined way as a programmer? Nope. I don't think most people in the industry have any issues either. My experience is limited to offices in the UK.

 

Everyone has a different perspective on a situation, but gender has nothing to do with it. He probably never thought twice about it, but it sticks with you. Would you ever ask a man for his 'male perspective' on an issue? Most likely not. Personally I'd want opinions and perspectives from everyone as human beings with different ideas. To suggest that you're different because of your gender is just lame.

If it happens again, it's maybe worth pointing it out to the person at the time. Not in a confrontational way, but to make them think and be aware about how they are coming across in the situation.

 

In short, my theory is that this issue will for the most part end with our generation.

 
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