Girls Code: What is it like to be a woman in the tech industry?

by Koree S. Monteloyola

 

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This week I'm sharing the email I received from another Filipina who has recently developed an interest in coding.

Although it is true that there is gendar gap in computer courses and the I.T. workplace, that is slowly changing. I'm happy to tell you (in case you haven't heard of it) that women outnumber men in an introductory computer course at Berkeley.

Sweet.

Now let's read May's email.

 

"Hi there :) I can't tell you how glad I felt when I stumbled upon your website. I'm a Filipina myself and I recently cultivated an interest for tech (I'm currently playing around with scripting languages). With that in mind, I'd just like to ask you a question :) What is it like to be a woman in the (currently male-dominated) tech industry? I'm only about to start college and already I've seen hints that women aren't very much welcomed in the field. Also, what sparked your interest in tech? :D"

-May
(Sent on April 29, 2014 9:42AM)

Hi May, I am also glad that another Filipina has enjoyed coding, welcome to the jungle. Thank you for asking these beautiful questions, I’m pleased to answer them. I apologize if it’s too long for you, hopefully these words would guide you in your chosen career.

What is it like to be a woman in the (currently male-dominated) tech industry? 

All is well, as long as you can deliver what is expected of you in the workplace. From the start when I decided that I want to be in this field, I knew that being a woman has nothing to do with my chosen profession. My mind is free. I’m lucky that I was born in a democratic country wherein women enjoy equal rights with men.  I’m actually surprised, until now, why girls don’t enroll in computer courses, and go on to be successful I.T professionals?

Although it is true that men outnumber women in every technological gathering I have been to, to me, it is just an observation, and it ends there. I don’t let that bother me. Contrary to some sexist articles against men (in the Philippines), you can’t compare a group of male nerds to a pack of hungry wolves. Oh no, that would be very wrong my dear. In a tech conference, such as ComiCon, a girl would probably be the last to get a nerd’s attention.

But men being men have their own brand of humor, and you can’t change this and it will never change. I have to admit that sometimes it gets awkward when they share stories about personal stuff that only other men should hear. When you experience this and feel uncomfortable, you can leave the area or inform them that they are not in the proper place to discuss these kinds of things. If you feel violated as a woman, stand firm and remember your rights as a woman in your school and in the workplace.

I'm only about to start college and already I've seen hints that women aren't very much welcomed in the field. 

I would like to know more about your experience on this. What prompted you to say that?

Also, what sparked your interest in tech? :D

It all started because of a Power Point project in highschool. It allowed me to be creative and technical at the same time. After being an expert in PowerPoint (hahaha!), I got addicted in creating webpages (using HTML), again it is a medium that allows me to be artistic and use other media.

However, my interest in programming was triggered by an embarrassing feedback from my professor in my freshman year in college. I remember that I approached him to check my seatwork, but he said in a loud voice, “Ano ‘to?!” (“What is this?!”). My other classmates heard it and I was really humiliated. BUT, I didn’t let it end negatively; I took it as a challenge. I went to a bookstore and bought a programming book about Pascal programming and studied it by myself, ahead of our lessons, and from there it was history.

 

P.S.

Did you know that the first computer programmer is a woman? Her name is Lady Lovelace. So be cool and humble about yourself, you are (just) another woman who apparently enjoys coding. Remember, a woman who has the right amount of self-respect doesn’t need to feel awkward or be overwhelmed when surrounded by men.

Code away, May. ☺

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