Into my email came yet another note from a woman asking about the call for a women’s coding workshop I had forwarded to a listserv. I didn’t know much about the workshop, but posting it meant I got emails asking if it was ok for them to attend even though they had “rusty coding skills” or were a beginner or had only taken part of a class online or they had only learned a different programming language.
I tried to respond brightly: I’m not great at Python myself. The workshop says it’s just for beginners, so let’s try. I’m a beginner too. A few weeks later four of us had a great time learning how to create and run a simple loop in Python.
Oh, and that listserv I sent the email to? The one where all of the responses included some sort of derogatory comment about how little they knew about the topic, and how basic their level was?
Every one of those women who responded had a Ph.D. Most of them in a STEM field.
These women had published academic articles, were working in high pressure jobs and had gotten onto that list serve by making it through a rigorous multi-stage interview process for a fellowship. But every single woman who emailed asked me if she was good enough.
We talk about having a pipeline problem in technology, that it’s not great for the tech industry not to employ women, that women do have the skills – as long as we don’t know they’re women.
Maybe one part of our problem is convincing smart women, minorities and anyone else that’s not represented enough in the tech field that it’s worthwhile, fun and even just plain ok to learn computational skills.