I think women being great at what they do is... April 26, 2012
I think women being great at what they do is the single best advert for that fact that women are great at what they do.
When I read this article, and the column to which it relates I was reminded of an incident just the other week.
I was in a training session, and the trainer was telling us about what he had lined up for the next week. He was going to be helping out a student with her programming assignment. She'd been on a training event with him, and had found him approachable and so had arranged to pay him for 1 to 1 tuition to help her get through her final assignments. All of this is fine and reasonable.
He said, that in all honesty, she wasn't cut out to be a developer, and was probably actually more interested in Project Management. Fair enough, I assume there are better, more appropriate courses that could have been studied, but we don't always know what opportunities are available until we stumble across them.
He then said she wasn't really very good at the development stuff, and her previous assignment ended up being a combination of her work, his work, and her father's work. Again, fair enough. Not every woman has the determination to be a developer (I'm too close to development to judge whether it's an in-built quality or a learned skill or a combination of the both).
He then said, and this is where I lost it a bit, according to his wife she was a real "girly girl". This annoyed me, and he realised it. He later asked me what he should have said instead. And I didn't have a ready answer. So this blog post is me redressing that. What I should have said is:
If she was a male, what would you have said? Would you have said he's a real "blokey bloke"? Would that have been your reason for him not to be a good developer? Would you have specified what he was like at all? Would it have seemed relevant?
Why did you say your wife said that? Is it because if you say that it isn't you making the judgement? It's another woman, and that is ok and acceptable? You didn't mention your wife through the rest of the training event, so why is her judgement here of relevance?
What does it matter whether a female developer chooses to dress in jeans, hoodie and trainers or Laura Ashley dresses and high-heeled shoes? Does the clothing we wear effect our ability to deliver high quality, robust and scalable solutions? If it does, why don't all development departments have the same dress code across both sexes?
How I wish I could have managed to get any one of these responses out, and heard the replies, and understood whether I'd just misunderstood his meaning, or whether he just didn't understand what he was saying and the effect it could have on someone starting out, someone without 18 years of experience working in a development environment. But it wasn't to be, and so I'm left with this, a blog post which leaves me none the wiser, but at least gives me a script to follow if there is ever a next time...