We make a special effort in March to acknowledge the accomplishments of women. Women have been making gains in many professions over the past several decades but are still underrepresented in technology. There are several hypotheses about why this is the case, but often women find they are not welcome in the “brogrammer” cultures of many companies and eventually leave or are even discouraged from pursuing careers in tech in the first place. Sadly, there are even worse situations where women are physically assaulted at work. Unfortunately, some people even believe women are not suited for tech at all. (I spend my volunteer time teaching T-SQL to women who want to be developers, DBAs, and data analysts. My passion for technology is contagious, but, then later I realize that they won’t all have the great career that I have.)
Noticing that I was always one of the few women or, sometimes, the only woman at my early developer jobs, I thought that I must be extra special or cool to be a programmer as a woman. I didn’t realize that women such as Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamar, and Grace Hopper were pioneers in technology, especially computing. I also didn’t realize that women were well represented in computer science degree programs until the 1990s. I am not special at all; I am just fortunate that I had mentors who encouraged me, and I managed to find jobs at great companies.
Maybe the numbers of women should not be the focus, but anyone with the aptitude and desire to work in technology should have a chance to follow that path and be able to work in a welcoming environment. They deserve to work on a team that listens to their ideas and appreciates their contributions.
Tech careers often require long hours, and balancing home life and work is tough for everyone. Both women and men can benefit from family-friendly policies such as flexible work schedules, opportunities for remote work, and company offered daycare. Not only do workers benefit from these perks, companies will see reduced turnover and improved productivity by offering them. Companies also produce better products when they have diverse teams and should do everything in their power to ensure they do.
During Women’s History Month (and every month), I encourage you to learn more about the women pioneers of technology. Share those stories with the children in your life. If you can, be a mentor for a kids’ programming class or robotics team. But most of all, make sure that you are supportive of the women who work with you. A workplace that is great for women is great for everyone.