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.
Resources for kids to learn about making video games
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.
Given my working-class background, I have strong feelings on this topic. There’s also a related issue that dovetails specifically with my work with women in technology. I don’t do this work just to improve diversity in the tech field. I do it to help women improve their own lives. Seven years ago, I was a single mother on welfare. Self-learned web development knowledge and skills is what put me where I am today. Without them, I would not have the quality of life I have now, and neither would my daughter, and I would like to find better ways to bring this type of education to other women with limited means.
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.
The full range of diversity in programming
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.”
Why Girl Develop It Columbus is worth it already
So I recently fulfilled a very long-time goal of mine by jump-starting an initiative to encourage women in programming and web development - Girl Develop It Columbus. I’m working on a much more long-winded treatise on that goal, but, in the meantime, I wanted to record an experience I had at our Friday night mixer, which got together the group’s future students, teachers and supporters to talk and share ideas.
My night was pretty much made by meeting an older woman who is signed up for both our introduction to programming and introduction to HTML/CSS classes. She was so excited for the opportunity to learn and was so grateful for an environment that encouraged people like her to learn. She told me she’s wanted to be a developer for twenty years. She’s spent most of her career in tech-adjacent fields and has been constantly talked-down to, belittled and dismissed as someone who can’t handle technical things. Now, she feels she has a solid opportunity to prove them all wrong.
We haven’t even officially started yet and already I feel like it’s worth it. I can’t wait to see what all of these amazing people accomplish.
I believe the problems with open source not being able to handle non-programmers in their projects is the same problem as the rampant sexism: open source culture is not feminist. Feminism is fundamentally about equality for everyone, not just women, and designers of any gender are just as alienated as women programmers, because it’s not an equally welcoming environment. There’s no perceived value in open source for mentoring, facilitation, disciplining of unruly users, training of newcomers or non-technical users, etc., which are needed to support both designers of any gender and women in any role.”
— Designers and women in open source.