Last weekend, I participated in Rails Girls, an event that introduces women to development in Ruby on Rails. This particular event was held in Washington D.C., a hotbed for the tech industry.
As a Rails Girls DC coach, I cheered on the girls as they worked through building a web application, and lent a hand when a little help was needed. There were several other coaches, and more significantly, several other female coaches. While I anticipated enjoying Rails Girls DC, I didn’t expect that I would be so encouraged and excited by working with others at the event.
Toward the end of the second day, two other women coaches and I gave a short presentation on different aspects of being a developer (and why we love it!). The common message from all three talks was this: Enjoying what you do is crucial to a life well lived, and doing development allows us the flexibility to base our decisions on the life we want, not on the life our career allows us to have.
I think we would each freely admit that being a woman in the development realm isn’t easy, and it’s no secret that we are largely outnumbered. I don’t feel that my day-to-day work experience is impaired by this, but there are definitely moments when I am more aware of my gender than my abilities. With new clients, I sometimes feel I have to go above and beyond what a male developer would have to accomplish in order to prove my competency. Once I gain the client’s trust, this imbalance dissipates, but it’s a tough undertaking at what is already one of the most challenging parts of a project’s lifespan.
There are a lot of articles and efforts to “get more women in the tech industry,” and while I think the intentions are good, I think they often miss the true issue. My goal in volunteering and promoting events like Rails Girls is not to simply beef up the number of female developers; I don’t feel we should be on a recruiting mission. My concern is more that this skewed ratio highlights the fact that there are many women who are missing out on enjoying a career in development.
To help women throughout the Southeast explore the possibility of becoming developers, Highgroove is planning a Rails Girls event at our office. It will begin Friday, November 30th, when we’ll host an installation party to get all the participants set up with a Rails environment. Then, on Saturday, we’ll go through the curriculum and show the attendees a world where they can see themselves being successful, challenged, supported–and most importantly–happy.
If you or someone you know would like to volunteer at or attend Rails Girls ATL, please follow @railsgirlsatl on twitter and watch closely for the launch of railsgirls.com/atl. We’ll start accepting applications soon!
Image credit: Lynn Wallenstein