Women in tech

The AtlanticBethanye Blount came into work early to interview a job applicant. A veteran software engineer then in her 30s, Blount held a senior position at the company that runs Second Life, the online virtual world. Good-natured and self-confident, she typically wore the kind of outfit—jeans, hoodie, sneakers—that signals coding gravitas. That day, she might even have been wearing what’s known as the “full-in start-up twin set”: a Second Life T-shirt paired with a Second Life hoodie.

There's a lot of descriptive adjectives in that paragraph. A lot of stage-setting. A lot of "Let's introduce the person we're writing the article about" stuff. Presumably, it's based on what that individual recollected about the incident she was describing, and told the author of the article.

The incident, by the way, is: she interviewed a job applicant at her company, a man, and she didn't think he was taking her seriously. Later, she overheard him taking a male interviewer with less experience at the company much more seriously, and concluded that the candidate was sexist.

She might be right. I don't know the candidate and for all I know, he's a sexist, misogynist pig.

I also don't know her. Not a clue about her coding skills or her ability to program. But just reading the introductory paragraph of the article, I think I can identify the problem.

How does this woman try to establish her technical credibility? She says she's "good natured and self confident", two attributes that have nothing to do with writing code. She talks about wearing an outfit -- jeans, hoodie, sneakers -- that "signals coding gravitas". She might have even been wearing logo gear sold by the company she works for. Fashion sense -- or lack thereof -- also has nothing to do with writing code. Lots of people lack fashion sense and wear hoodies or company logo shirts. Few of them can actually code. (Few of ANY group that doesn't relate to programming can actually code).

How do people generally identify other people who can code? I assure you it's not by checking a dress code. The people who can code generally do not care how they dress. They don't think about it. They are too busy thinking about writing code. This woman, whatever her technical skills, clearly spends a lot of time thinking about what she is wearing. That's a contraindicator for coding.

It's not perfect; there are women in tech who can code and have great fashion sense. But if you ask them about their work, they won't point to the hoodie they are wearing with the company logo on it. They won't reference their clothing to establish their technical credibility. Instead, they'll talk about what they've written, what programming languages they can speak, projects they have worked on.. any number of things, really, except clothing isn't on the list.

So the advice I would give to any woman interested in working in the tech field: take the chip off your shoulder, focus on getting the job done, and focus on developing your technical skills and contributing. If you want to talk about clothing, or wear a company-logo hoodie, that's fine. But it won't sell your skills to anyone.

This entry was published Mon Mar 27 10:16:27 CDT 2017 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2017-03-27 10:16:27.0. [Tweet]

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