While being a woman in tech can be isolating, the women I meet along this journey make the experience what it is. I have fabulous male friends and mentors also, but today I'm focussing on the women around me. They are the modern-day equivalent of the cousins that you grow up with, share stories with, laugh and cry with. They have shared the personal and the professional, the joy and the fear. Today seems like a good time to call out some of the women that I'm so glad to have around me.
@lig gets the first mention. She is a founder of PHPWomen and has been my mentor ever since (actually she's been trying to disown me for a while, but I don't let her!). Lig is a leading light in her own right, showing me how a career should be shaped to include professional growth and success along with a family life and other interests. I want to grow up to be Lig :)
@kattekrab is a wonderful woman whom I simply don't see often enough. She's smart, determined and lovely, all in equal measure. She knows how to lead and how to be part of something bigger, and she makes a big difference to so many of the lives that she touches.
@loonytoons will wonder what she is doing on this list. Here's a person who reminds me what it is to be unafraid to go looking for the next thing. If anyone ever tells you that you need a degree in Computer Science to be good at software, this woman is my proof positive that such a statement is entirely incorrect. The only downside is that her adventures have taken her far, far away so it's video calls only for a while :(
@emmajanehw is the person in my life who asks the difficult questions. That sounds like it's a negative, but it isn't. So many people think it's nice that I'm having a try at being freelance, because, you know, it's so family friendly and everything. And it's nice that some of the conferences allow the women to come and teach beginner topics (I hear this one a LOT). Emma "gets" my aspirations to achieve more in a way that not many people do, understands the must-be-twice-as-good issues, and she pushes me to be the best I can be. I'm really delighted that she's recently moved MUCH nearer so hopefully we'll be seeing more of one another :)
@miss_jwo is technically my mentee, but like all good pupils she has made me learn a lot! In addition to teaching me to understand my place in the community, she's a person to be celebrated in her own right. With a new job, success as a relatively new conference speaker, and lots of other community activities, all on top of a personal life relocation this year, she's showing even the old hands what can be done when you set your mind to it. This woman knows how to believe in something and make it happen - an example to everyone.
@auroraeosrose and I have been friends for a long time. We don't speak often but she is the person who, whether my issue is technical, community-related or totally confidentially personal, I can just start an IM conversation basically in the middle and know I'll be heard. Saying all of that totally skates over the fact that she is one of the best developers PHP has, under-celebrated but absolutely knocking it dead, all the time. Smart and gets things done, and sometimes we could all do with more of that.
The Women On My Journey
At this point it is clear that I have great company along my own journey, but what about everyone else? The discussion of gender imbalance in tech has focussed very much on the women, and not so much on what it means for the other minorities or indeed for this white, male majority who seem to get accused of all kinds of bad behaviour at every turn. Ada Lovelace Day is about celebrating women, and I'd like to see us adopt some of these ideas for women AND for other under-represented groups in our industry. Here are three concrete things that anyone can do, that I genuinely believe will help:
- Pay attention to and curate the diversity of the blogs you read and of your twitter followers (I'm working on a list of women to follow, additions welcome). This opens you up to new points of view but it's only half the story...
- Now share those other points of view with your own network when you see something you like. This helps under-represented people to have a voice in a way that is hard for them to achieve without our support (as well as promoting perfectly mainstream people's ideas that you also thought had great merit!)
- If you're asked to nominate someone for a speaking slot, an award, or something else, try hard to think of a few people from minority groups to consider. Then pick who you like, of course! This helps to counter our unconscious bias of thinking of a person like what we think a great speaker or award winner looks like, and it just takes a moment of conscious thought on our part.
Happy Ada Lovelace Day - here's to the achievements of women on this day, and to all that we can achieve as a community in the future.