Kay lives here

working with the web

Women Developers

Dave Shea and some other people have raised the topic “where are all the women in css design”? He lists the major blogs discussing the issue so I won’t bother listing them here again. Basically, they seem to be out there, perhaps in slightly lower numbers than the blokes, but apart from a couple of notable exceptions like Molly and Holly they’re not as loud.

Well, people, if you think design women are rare, I’d like to introduce you to all the female ColdFusion developers that I’ve ever met in person: Kim from my local CFUG, and Patti Lee who I sat next to at the MXDU blogger’s dinner. Yep, that adds up to a grand total of two.

I know of others, of course, that I have never met… Sandy Clark, Fuseboxer of great note… Kathryn Butterly and Jeanne Sarfaty-Glazer from the old Fusebox Advisory committee, neither of whom I’ve heard anything about for ages… Erika Walker-Arnold from CFTalk… there’s a handful of others, but still, not many.

Even where I work – office of 16 people – I was the first girl 5 years ago, and while we have had at times up to two other female employees, they’ve been either graphics, HTML or accounts. Not that I was a developer to start with, and not that I can really call myself a developer anymore, with all the other roles I have.

So why do I think there’s not more of us? Dunno. Why does anyone end up writing web applications? The last thing I would have thought about at school was “Wow, those web-based database-backed business and ecommerce applications, now that would be a cool career”! Even at uni it was all Flash animations, 3D modelling, band web sites and cd-rom zines. Not a database in sight, although I love them now.

You wanna know what I actually think? Women have a tendency (warning: extreme stereotyping ahead) to be naturally good at communicating, liaising, managing, planning, teaching and performing similar roles in IT. So women who could end up as code monkeys get directed into those kind of areas when the need arises, and they never go back.

Slightly related note: a post on CFAussie tonight about the origins of OO Programming ended up leading me to the Wikipedia entry on Ada Lovelace, the author of the world’s first computer programs and an all round groovy chick. It made interesting reading – one bit in particular conflicted with some other things I’d read:

biographers have noted that Lovelace struggled with mathematics, and there is some debate as to whether Lovelace understood deeply the concepts behind programming Babbage’s engine, or was more of a figurehead used by Babbage for public relations purposes.

Being quite interested in the origins of computer programming, especially from the female angle, I read quite a bit about our Ada back at uni (when I was learning the language Ada, actually) and most of what I read back then was kind of the opposite – that Babbage, while brilliant, was not particularly practical, and Ada’s contributions were important to highlight the potential real-world applications of his inventions. That is, she understood it better than he did.

And to veer even further off the topical path – hey, it’s 2am here, there’s cool music on RAGE (selections picked by a 15 or 16 year old Daniel Johns from Silverchair, quite a few years back), and I have to be at my grandma’s by 6am tomorrow (this) morning to cook her breakfast – I highly recommend The Difference Engine, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson’s collaborative novel. It’s a kind of 18th century alternate science fiction history, based on the supposition that Babbage actually managed to build his theoretical computers, ushering in the information age early. It’s very cool.

I’m rambling, sorry. Good night!

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