There’s a huge movement right now to get more women in tech. Industry is buzzing with questions about why more women aren’t entering software-related fields. Many think of this as a supply problem, as if there weren’t enough capable, interested women to go around. “If only,” they think, “more women liked tech, or we could help them see that programming really isn’t so hard!”
But a lack of available women isn’t really the problem. In 2014, UC Berkeley, a major recruiting ground for Silicon Valley companies, made headlines when, for the first time most of its computer science students were women. In fact, the proportion of women entering CS programs has been steadily increasing, so why don’t we see this reflected in the workplace?
As someone who hangs out almost exclusively in tech circles, I’ll describe what I see everyday in the news, on Twitter, at conferences and meetups that has (so far!) kept me out of tech as a profession, even though I have technical skills and currently work on several technical personal projects: creating and maintaining websites, troubleshooting technical problems, managing digital content… even designing and building my own mobile app.
I hope that sharing my perspective might shed some light on ways the industry can truly address the problem that it claims to want to solve. From the outside, it looks like industry insiders are trying to solve the problems they think they can solve, rather than the ones that need solving. I’ll show you what the women “of” tech like me are seeing every single day that influences our decision to become (or not become) women “in” tech.
Sarah Rainsberger started playing around with tech at the age of 11 when the computer magazine her father brought home contained an “unlimited lives” cheat code for her favourite Commodore 64 arcade game. Then, she realized she could alter the code of another text-based adventure game, and promptly changed all the death screens into horrible outcomes for the boys in her class.
Sarah had a successful career in education as a mathematics teacher, school administrator and entrepreneur in Toronto but she never lost her love of gadgets and technology.
For 10 years, Sarah has traveled the world with her husband attending tech conferences and hanging out in primarily tech social circles. Perhaps out of self-defense, she has learned even more about software along the way. Once Joe woke up late on a Sunday morning to discover that Sarah had installed ruby, set up a git repository, and started converting a WordPress blog into Jekyll deployed on Heroku. Together, they have also pair-built an Android app on a train from Munich to Vienna because Sarah couldn’t find an app that did exactly what she wanted. Later, Sarah explored visual programming tools to refine and develop the idea on her own.
To this day, Sarah gleefully hacks the structures around her, and has never met a system she hasn’t wanted to game. She will probably die trying to create the perfect digital photo management system.