In some ways, I don’t even know what to say in response to this. So much of my heart hurts reading it and I have so much to say about it that it almost feels discouraging to even start. Almost. Almost has never stopped me before.
There’s a great article here in response, but I’d like to chime in myself.
To start, the author makes a bold claim.
Women shouldn’t code
Oh really? I had no idea! Thank you for showing me the light! Here I was, thinking I could code and man, wow I can’t thank you enough for reminding me that I as a female have a specific place in society and how dare I try to do something different.
Just a few sentences later…there is this.
Of course if a woman is actually interested in code, she should be encouraged.
As if, a woman couldn’t actually be interested in code. Nope — there’s no way. But if for some strange reason she is, then I guess we should probably encourage that…maybe.
…our current initiative to try to teach girls to code is misguided.
Now here’s something I do actually agree with. To me, something does feel off about suddenly pushing all the girls to code. Do I believe in giving the girls who seem to have an aptitude for science and math more encouragement to code? Absolutely. But girls in general? We don’t really do that to boys, so I’m unsure as to why every girl seems to need to code.
Now here’s the fun part.
First of all, coding itself is a narrow function in which you write instructions to tell a computer what to do. People are fond of saying code is the next language, and that’s all fine, but there’s a difference between language and syntax. Coding is syntax. It is finely detailed work in a binary world, and it requires both attention to detail. When you write a line of code, you have to close the parentheses and make sure you put in the semi-colon or the code won’t run. It requires enormous concentration, and it is exacting. It’s often done in a dark room with no interruptions. But the most important people in the company don’t write the code, they tell the coders what to write. Coders don’t make the big decisions.
I’m struggling to find something correct in this entire paragraph. Well, I suppose she is right that we do have to close the parentheses and put in the semi-colon or the code won’t run (depending on the language). But if everything else about this point is true for her, then she needs to get a different work environment. I’m sick of the ‘dark room’ stereotype. It is simply not true. My desk is well-lit — in fact, we even turn off a few lights because it is so darn bright! I get interrupted all the time. Why? To help make decisions! And I’m not even close to the most important person in my company!
Women don’t seem to want to code. They don’t choose it as a career, despite all the job openings and the high pay. In general, women are more intuitive and more perceptive. There’s mountains of research about that. They’re also more nurturing. That’s hard-coded into them for the preservation of the race. I’ve got grandchildren of both sexes and I have about sixteen data points from which I draw this conclusion. But PET scans of the brain have led scientists to similar conclusions. The girls are not drawn to the same pursuits the boys are, no matter how hard you try to bring them up with gender equality.
This is another struggle paragraph — only because I think it might be true. I don’t know if this is because women aren’t being exposed and encouraged or if this is really really true. She has 16 data points (does anybody else find that laughable?) that bring her to this conclusion andI raise you my 64 dorm mates of which I was the sole CS major. I was close friends with many of them — most of whom would not enjoy being programmers. Not because they didn’t have the intelligence or were incapable — just that their intelligence was better served elsewhere. My friend could tell you about every little piece of anatomy imaginable and I would trust her over some doctors I’ve visited. Another one of mine was so well politically versed I’m surprised she isn’t president yet.
Her other points aren’t even worth discussing. She says that we’ll create a “glut” of programmers (well, maybe, but what does that have to do with them being female?) And then she talks about the difference between good and bad code (Again…what does that have to do with being female? Also…didn’t you just say coding was just grammar yet in this paragraph you call it being “More than grammar and syntax”?) *Sigh*.
Which brings me to my real point. The issue is not getting more young girls into programming. In fact, at this point I’m not sure I can honestly suggest girls go into tech. The issue is keeping girls in the field.
The “bro” mentality that we women have to put up with in tech companies is getting to the point of absurdity. It’s time for you men out there to stop being boys at work and get used to having intelligent, capable women around.
I work with some great guys, and unknowingly by them and others at work, I have at times experienced some forms of gender bias and even at times insulting remarks. I’m blessed that this is very rare, but even so, it happens.
This is exactly the kind of thing that women can’t end on our own and that is where things need to change — this conception that women are incapable and need mens’ help. It gets worse because I haven’t even touched on how horrible the industry is towards mothers.
I have a feeling our real problem isn’t with funneling girls in — we’re going to have a problem keeping them once they realize our generation didn’t prepare the workplace for them. How can we, in good conscience, ask girls to work hard towards an industry that is so hostile to them?