Monday, October 27, 2014

We need more women in tech.

Women are just as good as men in tech.
I have spent over fifteen years in the technology business as a consumer, developer and scrum master. One constant during my career is that there are not enough women working in technology. Numerous articles have been written on the subject and plenty of initiatives are bubbling up around the web to teach women to code.  Still, I want to address a few of the myths I have heard about women and technology which need to be discredited.

1)Women are not logical enough to code.

This is false.  The American Psychological Association states, “…gender differences in math achievement are largely due to cultural and environment factors” (emphasis mine).  So given and equal level of training women and men are equally good at math and by default logic.

2)Women cannot work the log hours required of programmers.

This is a cop out for two reasons.  First, working more hours does not guarantee better work.  According to the Harvard Business Review the more hours a person works the less productive they become.  Second, long hours are often a failure of project planning and business leadership. Individual developers should not have to pay the price for bad planning.

The above said, working extra hours and being involved in crunch time is a perverse badge of honor.  I like it when the Netizen Corporation Blog says, “This is a representation of failure rather than commitment.”

Having women in the office particularly women with families lives tempers this desire to work insane hours as a form of perverse competition.  When you have lives outside of work it tends to make that labor more productive.

3)Women hurt the teamwork of the development crew.

Study after study has shown diversity of gender, race and religion yields better decision making.  If anything software development is about making decisions.  People do feel discomfort when thrown together with groups they are unfamiliar but one they get over that discomfort their performance improves.

I have experienced first-hand the change which takes place when women are added to a development team.  Jokes about alcohol consumption and romantic conquests go way down.  The men on the team care more about their hygiene and appearance.  Everyone becomes more polite and professional with each other.  Finally, disagreements are worked out in a more civil fashion.  It is not perfect but it is much better than working on all male teams.

4)Women are just not as knowledgeable.

There are plenty of women in technology who have fantastic skills.  Marissa Mayer did not graduate from Stanford and become and executive at Google because of her good looks.  She was a smart and capable engineer who also brought to the table a keen sense of design and a fanatical devotion to metrics.

From a more personal perspective, Angela Dugan author of the “The TFS Whisperer” has become a role-model and big sister of sorts.  She introduced me to TFS, Agile, and better development methods.  She leads the Chicago ALM group and has a profoundly strong reputation among the development community around Chicago.  I have known Angela for over five years and I am better technologist because of it.

These two women are just some of the people I know who bring a sense of craft and commitment to their technical skills.  This just confirms to me that you do not need to have a UNIX beard in order to be knowledgeable.

Technology needs more women but some of these myths I have attempted to discredit have gotten in the way.  If this situation is going to improve men and women are going to have to step forward and quash these faux myths of male programming superiority.  Otherwise we will continue to be stuck in the same destructive patterns we see today in the world of development.

Until next time.