On Our Radar This Week: Women in Tech and Late Learners

Originally published at: http://www.sitepoint.com/on-our-radar-this-week-women-in-tech-and-late-learners/

Welcome to the all-new On Our Radar — a weekly round-up of interesting, thought-provoking and downright entertaining conversations from the far-flung corners of the SitePoint forums.

Women in Tech

It’s widely acknowledged that women are underrepresented in the technology sector. Thankfully, there are many initiatives attempting to address this imbalance.

One such initiative was launched by SitePoint member sarahfrantz, who is currently seeking female developers for a women’s web developer association. She wrote:

I’m looking for female web developers (any background) who might be interested in being on an advisory board for a Women’s Web Developer Association – or those who might want to be involved in some way. This has somewhat been an idea of mine to create now for the past 4 or 5 years, and I finally have some time to sit down and make it happen.

There followed a discussion about why it’s a good thing to have a body composed entirely of women and how important role models are when you are starting out in any industry. This sentiment was eloquently summarized by ralphm:

I had an experience of it in my “last life”—when I was training to be a primary school teacher. It’s a heavily female-dominated profession, and I was lucky to have a lot of brilliant teachers to learn from during my training … except that I felt pretty inferior to them, as I couldn’t imagine being able to do what they were doing. I just didn’t fit in. It wasn’t until I got to spend some time with a male teacher that I realized there was another way to do things—one that I understood and could relate to.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Maybe you want to apply? You can join the discussion here.

Too Late to Learn?

Elsewhere, the latest episode of Reddit’s podcast — aptly entitled Three Female Computer Scientists Walk into an AMA — prompted Tom to ask:

Does it matter how old you are when you begin to learn to code?

There have been some really good answers to this question already, with a couple of our older members admitting to learning with a CS64 (if you remember those).

One popular line of thought was summarized by mawburn:

Some people can’t draw and never will be able to. Some people can’t cook and will never be able to. Some people can’t program and will never be able to.

Whilst antonella states:

Being young helps, being older with the right baggage can have its advantages too.

What about you? Do you think age matters? Why not have your say?

From Around the Place

In Design & UX, jeffreyless wants your opinions on a flashy website, that is actually so far over the top, it’s borderline unusable.

Continue reading this article on SitePoint
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Ironic how I fit in both categories. Sorry I haven’t had time to join in either of those discussions - maybe this weekend I’ll add my two cents worth.

I am an older woman - retired high school mathematics teacher turned freelance web developer as a second career :blush:

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I often wish I had studied maths (I dropped it for geography for some reason) — I used to be quite reasonable at it.
I still read random, maths-related blog posts (just this morning, I read this cool article explaining Bayes theorem using Lego) and I occasionally have a bash at the problems on Project Euler.

Do you find that a maths background helps you in your career as a web dev?

I think Math is helpful mainly in the sense that because my brain is geared towards math, I love coding and am addicted to learning as much as I can in that area. It uses a lot of the same logical and algorithmic thinking as well as problem-solving abilities. My background has also made me a lifetime learner, so I keep going back to school, and books and video tutorials for more when I’m not working on client stuff. :smiley:

I found that being older and being a woman has not been a deterrent at all to learning and doing web development - it has only been a problem in other developers’ perception of me as a web developer.

Very true. For example, the ability to break a complex problem down into a series of solvable steps is often invaluable.

That sucks!
I’m a man (obviously), so I never ran into this, but I was quite shocked to learn how rampant misogyny can run in some walks of life. I think everyone should be judged on their merits.

This is politically-correct baloney which makes good “copy.”

As an older female who spent years in a technical field (not involved with the web) my opinion is that there are incompetent or undereducated people that can’t hack a technical occupation, and then there are some who are more than adequate; it has nothing to do with gender.

In the past did such impediments exist for females? …perhaps, but for now give it a rest.

As an English trainer (my other life) I get to walk into a whole bunch of companies and talk to a whole bunch of people. I once taught a lawyer who was paid less than her male counterpart and who was passed over for promotion (she said, for being female). I also taught a bookkeeper who said she daren’t have a photo of her kids on her desk, as she feared she wouldn’t be taken seriously by her male colleagues. There is a professor I know of who won’t shake hands with women. There is a board member at my (female) friend’s company who won’t invite women to meetings.

I realise that in itself this proves very little, but if you talk to enough people then you realise that there is definitely a sense of imbalance.

On the other hand, you’re right — it is politically correct and it does make good copy. For example I’m not sure what to think of women only conferences, or women only social networks. This seems too far the other direction.

All I think is that each individual should be judged on his or her merits.


I joined the sitepoint board just to post a reply! I’ve been subscribed to the newsletter but never felt a need to respond until now.

There is a need for a women’s only organization to help promote and energize the female population of technically focused individuals. I went to college for Computer Science ('00) and graduated as the only female in my class. Then my first job out of school I was the first woman hired. I think that freaked out my male colleagues, because the company told them they had to behave and take down the porn hanging in their cubes. As I continued through my career, I went back for my MBA and joined the ranks of management on the product side. Now from up here, I can tell you that there is a void of women at this level. And it gets worse the higher up you go. Why is that? I think Sheryl Sandberg outlined it best in her book Lean In, but I don’t agree with her advice. Women tend to have babies at the age when their careers take off. So, by the time they should be moving up in ranks, they are taking off time for maternity leave and caring for their children. Women still are the household member who cooks dinner, does dishes, and does laundry. Having a job and taking care of a family is a crushing experience for many. I think having a support network for that kind of life is really empowering. I love meeting other women who are able to offer at the very least, an “I get it” kind of nod. That’s enough for me. Because it’s hard. And not that men don’t experience this too - because I know they do, my father raised me alone. But it’s a different expectation out of a woman than there is for a man. Okay done rant :smile:


[quote=“lindapinda, post:8, topic:113480”]
There is a need for a women’s only organization to help promote and energize the female population of technically focused individuals. …[/quote]

Forming some sort of group is great, if that makes you feel empowered/energized. Everyone else has a group so perhaps forming a group could help “technically focused” females. As a rather “old fart” female, I’m dubious about the porn being yanked down from the cubicles if you’re talking '00 and beyond; but perhaps there’s backwaters. Anyway…

There’s always an excuse for not being competitive; I detest anyone who uses gender (or any other PC criteria) as an excuse for their failure.

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