What exactly does a software developer look like?
Do they have dark hair, short hair, blue/brown eyes? Do they like to wear red on Tuesdays or is that a daily commitment? Tall, short, socially awkward, chatty… perhaps all of the above, some or none. Here is an interesting one we are throwing at you, when people think of developers, they think of men.
Dipping into history.
Looking back to the 60ies, development was viewed as a great career choice for ladies alongside teaching for the simple reason that is was viewed as “easy”.
Why the shift?
As programming came to be viewed as a discipline which required logical problem-solving skills, women were less and less encouraged to pursue careers in the field. Computer programming was stripped of its “easy” label, became known as “difficult” as well as “not something which women did” with this altering perception we began to see the steady decline of female developers.
Intro to Jade and the ladies
We, at Retro Rabbit, are beyond proud to introduce our developers Jade, Kimi, Tessa, Leandri and Kerry who not only challenge barriers and stereotypes but are knocking them down, with their bare hands like Xena Warrior Princess, okay you get the point. But really as you will get to know them you will not only see their passion for our industry but their commitment and dedication to empowering females through education.
Hello Django Girls
Django Girls is a volunteer run, non-profit org as well as a community who run workshops which provide tools, courses and support aimed at empowering women to become more confident in the world of technology.
This is what a developer looks like
Jade was one of our Rabbits invited to mentor at the last Django event. Let’s get to know our super rabbit…
How did you guys get involved with Django?
Django Girls is the organisation name. “Django” is simply the web framework where we teach the girls. One of our clients decided to run the event in Johannesburg. But they were coming short with finding female mentors, so they called us up to find out if any of us could help.
What was the event about? Was it a one-day game?
These events address the lack of women in STEM fields – in particular, the lack of female software developers. We try to address this issue by teaching a group of women how to build their first Django website. The event ran for 1.5 days, the first day is a “meet and greet” as well as install the software required for the tutorial. The 2nd day we got into the gritty stuff, giving the ladies their first taste in development.
What were the ages of the ladies involved? Are they in school looking for a career or currently in careers looking to do the 360-degree life change?
A whole range of women from 19 until 41. Some of them designers who wanted to move into development, some were looking at total career shifts, others just wanted to challenge themselves. I’m talking from YFM DJs to politicians.
Why in your opinion are females not chasing down careers in STEM fields?
Research shows that there are a variety of reasons, which are often very conflicting. My personal belief is that it’s largely due to old and very incorrect stereotypes of the types of men and women that are software developers (cue photos of the ultimate nerd Bill Gates). Unlike more physical jobs like being a mechanic, where physically stronger candidates are needed. Software development is very sex and gender neutral since all it requires is the mind. You don’t need to look a certain way or have to act a certain way to be a software developer. You don’t spend all your time in a basement looking at a black box with text.
The working environment tends to be trendier and more people-friendly than the ugly corporate offices of the 80ies. Most software is built FOR people, I think people always forget the human element that is needed when thinking about what it’s that software developers can do. You can be a shy person and be a software developer, you can be an extrovert and be a software developer, you can be sporty and be a software developer, feminine, masculine, the list goes on. But people don’t think of software development like that, they are more likely to think of an unwashed man in a basement staring at old CRT monitors.
As a result of the dated stereotype, mothers tell their daughters to become doctors or accountants, homecarers or teachers. They won’t expose their daughters to technological or scientific fields. In fact, I believe that software development is more suited towards women than most corporate jobs, due to the flexibility of hours which allow women (and men) who are parents to adjust their schedules to better suit parenting.
Do we still live in a society which dictates careers based on gender?
I think we do. I don’t think anyone is doing it on purpose, but that’s the problem, right? The roles are so ingrained it’s often hard for parents to see what they are doing wrong, by not exposing their daughters to scientific careers at a young age. By only buying certain toys, by telling them that they are beautiful, rather how smart they are. If you want a laugh (and to be horrified), check this out.
What does it mean to create resources designed with empathy, this being a goal of Django Girls?
Django Girls write tutorials and provide mentors who are empathetic and approachable – to motivate those who may be afraid to begin programming.
Tell us about two of the most interesting woman you met?
One lady works in government in the primary education sector and was sharing her ideas to use technology to improve primary education. I found her cause super worthy. The second lady is a DJ for YFM with no technology background who was there to challenge herself, she really got into it, it was awesome.
Last year you helped organise and attended BotCon?
Yes, I did one of the few technical talks at the conference. My workshop was a practical run through of the tools for doing Natural Language processing with Deep Learning.
You are speaking up and you are being heard, you have been approached to present at other events after your presentation at Botcon…?
I am speaking at the Developer User Group in Johannesburg in April on “Machine Learning in Real Life: From the Trenches to the Clouds”. I also have a couple of others coming up this year, but will keep the lid on them until I can give you more info.
You obviously love what you do, have you always known programming was on the cards for you?
I was super lucky. My mom was a programmer before she had me and my dad loved computers. So, I’ve always had the opportunity to play with technology, from a young age, and because my mum used to be a developer, I always knew it was something that women could and should do. I decided when I was 14 before I’d ever programmed, that software development was what I wanted to do. The day I started, I knew that I was destined to be one. I want science fiction to be real. I want to create a machine creature with feelings and emotions that can be my friend. Most women long for children at my age, and all I want is to create artificial intelligence.
Empowering women… discuss your thinking on the topic and the contribution you hope to make?
Thankfully, we live in a country where women of all races have equal rights as men. But many of the hurdles women face, are ingrained into cultural norms. We live in a country where large parts of the population have grown up in very traditional conservative cultures, these women may not get exposed to a world where woman can be software developers or engineers or scientists. I want to empower women by helping them to know that they can be whatever they want to be. I want to improve their self-esteem so that they don’t feel intimidated by certain environments. They must never think that they are not smart enough or think that something is too “manly” for them.
I think this view was best explained at Django-Girls by Nyari Samushonga whose presentation was one of the best I’ve ever heard. She titled it “writing your own story” and said “when I first walked into a boardroom of software developers, I realised that no-one had a face like mine. That face I saw in the mirror was not reflected by anyone in front of me. It was scary. I would like to change the world so that If I should have kids and my kids should have kids, I’d like my granddaughter to walk into that boardroom and not even notice she is a black woman”.