Today I am giving a talk about women in technology. This is something I’ve been preparing for since I first learnt Basic at age 13 on a Commodore 64. I’ve had several amazing men encourage me in this field and even in the age of feminism and women’s rights, there is still a lot of speculation and discussion around women equality in technical and scientific fields.
As one of only two women in my Graduate program at Western Oregon where I studied computer science, the idea that more women weren’t in the undergrad or graduate program boggled me. At the same time, however, I struggled with things like Java and building Server Sockets until I would vision jamming a knife under my large toenail as more enjoyable.
My Professor at one point noted, “You can get 100% of the logic on the quiz but you don’t know your ass from a whole in the ground when it comes to the syntax.”
I preferred to study PHP, which seemed to make more sense to me than Java. I pursued Python and Ruby and HTML/CSS instead of the huge, monolithic class structure of Java. Networking, routers, the IP stack; these are all things I found intuitive and interesting whereas the standard course for most computer science majors was the single hardest program for me to learn.
I figured I was not alone in this. I submitted a dissertation proposal in the winter of 2004, which was accepted at Oregon State University, and excitedly planned the research for my doctoral degree on women retention rates of undergraduates in the computer science departments and the correlation of programming languages taught.
This is a classic joke of mine that PhD was never finished because, being a quintessential woman in tech, I gave birth to my first child and never went back to school.
In the past decade, the topic has been given more press. Just two weeks ago Google announced its diversity numbers. A number of questions are popping up, “Where are the women?” “What can we do?” “Maybe women don’t want to be in technology? Has anyone considered this?”
Today I stand up in front of 56 people, 5 of them women, and give my own story, those stories of other women developers I’ve talked to, and share my solution.
Special thanks to my Dad for teaching me Basic on a Commodore 64 in 1987. To my husband for funding my first tech certificate in 1999 and for supporting my efforts in grad school and keeping sharp objects away from me when I had to code Java. To Low for the opportunity to speak in a tiny town in Holland that includes some of my favorite memories ever.
Resources to my talk
Dr. Amen Studies:
Lord of the Flies
The Creative Process:
J. M. George, “Personality, Affect, and Behavior in Groups,” Journal of Applied Psychology75 (1990): 107–16; Blase E. Masini, Socialization and Selection Processes of Adolescent Peer Groups (Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest Information & Learning, 1998).
Women in CS:
The Pursuit of Ignorance:
Fey, Tina (2011-04-05). Bossypants. Little, Brown and Company.