It’s time to be honest about what technology is, and to give everyone the credit they deserve for working on all sorts of technological problems. To build the future, we need everyone to do their bit. We can’t afford to exclude either half the population from the tasks needed to make the world a better place. But it’s ok, because we don’t have to.Helen Czerski
After founding the Columbus, Ohio chapter of Girl Develop It three years ago and co-leading the Chicago chapter since last June, I’ve decided to step down as a GDI chapter leader. I will stay involved with the organization as an internal advisor and external community evangelist, and will be supporting the transfer of Chicago chapter leadership into the capable hands of Katy Exline and Liz Abinante.
Three years ago, I was in the beginning stages of creating GDI Columbus, the third GDI location after NY and Sydney. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that there were women out there, myself included, who were capable of learning and making more than the established education and employment system believed they could.
And you know what? I was right. There are sixteen active GDI chapters now. There are more currently being onboarded, and even more in the application pipeline. We have no lack of students. We have women clamoring to know when new classes are happening. We just keep growing.
Anyone who ever tells you that there aren’t more women coding because women as a whole just “aren’t interested” is entirely, unequivocally, demonstrably wrong. We’ve proved it. When you clear away the barriers that keep women away from coding, when you open the door and invite them in, they come by the hundreds.
In the past three years, I’ve met amazing people, watched careers get springboarded and seen women fulfill potential they didn’t know they had. Thanks to Sara Chipps and Vanessa Hurst for letting me jump on board in the beginning and for trusting me to experiment with and grow the Columbus chapter. Thanks to Kim Hamper for being the best assistant organizer ever and for gracefully and reliably taking leadership of my baby when I moved away. Thanks to Brittany Tarvin for bringing the Chicago chapter to life and laying the groundwork for my leadership there. Thanks to Liz and Katy for stepping up and carrying us forward.
Thanks to everyone who helped me do this. A lot of terrific things have happened because of it and my own life would be very different if it had never been. Even though I won’t be as involved in the day-to-day work anymore, I’m looking forward to supporting GDI and spreading the word of what we’ve accomplished and will continue to accomplish in the future. I’m also looking forward to a time to reflect and refocus and decide how I can best help the cause of women in technology next.
Yesterday, I wanted to suggest a few self-taught women programmers for an interview series (which someone else is conducting). However, I wasn’t sure how many of them had learned their craft via non-traditional methods, so, rather than contacting everyone individually, I put the word out on Twitter. I thought that a handful of the women I know follow me would respond if they were interested in participating and fit the bill.
But I keep forgetting I have a wider reach on the internet than I used to. As of now, that tweet has 335 retweets, 27 favorites and more responses than I can count.
This, of course, is awesome and I’m so grateful for and impressed by the interest. Unfortunately, I can’t accomodate all of the responses for this particular interview series. But I have another venue for you to tell your stories.
A while back, I made the High Visibility Project, to highlight the stories of women in technology. I haven’t had the bandwidth to keep up with it, though, and it’s been languishing on my list of things to redesign and reboot. But, well, why miss an opportunity like this to give more women a platform? Let’s start the reboot right now. If you were interested being interviewed, I would like to formally invite you to submit your story to the High Visibility Project and help us build a repository for women’s stories. You can submit no matter what your skill level or background is. Also, if you’re just starting out, watching the videos there is a great way to figure out your own path.
Recently, the Twitter hashtag #1ReasonWhy started collecting opinions and experiences from women in video game development and design. It caught my attention not only because I tend to be active in issues of diversity in technical field, but because I have a seven-year-old daughter who lately has become fascinated with video games and has started talking about making her own. It made me think that putting effort into encouraging her early in what she’s interested in was an important thing. However, I’m not a gamer. So I put the word out on Twitter for recommended resources.
And did Twitter ever respond. This is by far the most popular topic I have ever posted on Twitter. I got over eighty retweets and as many replies. I never anticipated such a huge response. Thank you, Twitter people! It’s heartening to know that people are so excited and supportive not only about helping kids learn and but also about getting fresh blood into the industry. It makes me hope that if my daughter does try this as a career someday, maybe she won’t have to face the same things some the women there now have gone through.
Several people also expressed interest in getting the same recommendations, so I intended to make a list. Then I got so many replies that I decided to simply create a Storify collection of all of them so people can browse on their own and make a quick mention of the most popular items here.
I was really pleased to get a wide range of resources for different ages and intents. As I mentioned in a follow-up tweet, I’m not sure if my daughter is interested right now in straight-up programming, so I hoped to ease her into it with more drap-and-drop type of gamemaker software. However, there are great general coding resources in the list as well.
The most popular was Scratch, which has long been on my radar but we hadn’t dived into it yet. I just downloaded it to my daughter’s computer and introduced it to her, so we’ll see what she can do with it. There were also several votes for Alice.
On the programming-light side, we’re going to try GameMaker first.
Check out the Storify for many, many, many more suggestions and if you have any new ones, especially along the lines of role models and kid-friendly blogs or screencasts, please let me know on Twitter at @antiheroine.
Pro-math, pro-science, pro-history and pro-literature girl-power fiction, starring Ada and Mary. Yeah, I’m pretty into this.
When any of our citizens can’t fulfill the potential that they have because of factors that have nothing to do with talent, or character, or work ethic, that diminishes us all. It holds all of us back.
This is why I do the work I do - all of the organizing, teaching and speaking on women in technology. This is the reasoning. It’s not about quotas, it’s not about handouts. It’s about the principle of potential and valuing individual achievement, and creating a true meritocracy. It’s the core of everything I try to stand for.
Also, turns out single mothers can raise future presidents. Just in case you were wondering.
I recently gave a talk at Software Craftsmanship North America about diversity in technology and programming, specifically gender and specifically in the context of teaching diverse beginners as we do in Girl Develop It Columbus. A lot of follow-up topics and questions came out of it that I felt needed more discussion and clarification. So I will be posting on them over at Still Unlocking the Clubhouse.
First up: the full range of diversity in programming.
Overall, I think it’s a good time to have a girl in the 21st century because things are changing, with more opportunities for women. But girls are still the underdog, which means they’ll work harder, and everybody loves an underdog. The next Steve Jobs will totally be a chick, because girls are No. 2—and No. 2 always wins in America. Apple was a No. 2 company for years, and Apple embodies a lot of what have been defined as feminine traits: an emphasis on intuitive design, intellect, a strong sense of creativity, and that striving to always make the greatest version of something. Traditionally, men are more like Microsoft, where they’ll just make a fake version of what that chick made, then beat the shit out of her and try to intimidate everybody into using their product.Louis C.K. →