I’ve held off commenting about this topic for a while. Mostly because I didn’t know exactly how to say what I wanted and also I didn’t think I’d have an audience. Well, my lovelies…
This is part one of a series on my take on being a female in the tech industry.
Part 1: “Why I Chose Computer Science”
I’ve never been much of a “girlie girl” except for the few cases of me wearing dresses in kindergarden (that stopped after I caught two boys pulling up my dress to see underneath) and wearing make up from time to time. I swear my boyfriend has a larger wardrobe than me and that his collection of shoes far surpasses mine. Except for my lack of a penis and my very obvious breasts, I consider myself a “person” rather than place myself in a “group.”
Maybe I’m part of a smaller minority of another minority – women who don’t care that they are part of the minority “Females in Tech.” I’m sort of the opinion, if it bothers you THAT much that you are the only female in your computing class, then maybe this field isn’t for you.
I went to college for 5 years for my B.S. in Computer Science and Cognitive Psychology. I got to see both sides of the story; while Computer Science is mainly a “man” field, psychology is a “woman” field – the class population reflected exactly that.
Unless I consciously reminded myself to take a census of each class room I was in, often I never considered the gender gap or even that it was a “problem.”
Perhaps it was my upbringing that gave me this “gender blindness.” Thank God for my father. I joke from time to time that since I was born he groomed me to be a computer programmer. It’s the truth. Looking back, on any project I did my father fit in some way to show my how computing or figuring out the problem pragmatically made things easier. He also taught me that just because I was a girl, it didn’t mean I should be held back from doing a “man’s” job.
I have two sisters and I swear he treated us as if we were three sons. Sure we had inside chores such as cleaning but we were also pulled outside and made to do heavy lifting, mow the lawn, cut branches, move dirt, etc… None of this “you’re such a princess” bull crap.
My mother and he also taught us that sure, we could live “fat, dumb, and happy,” unaware of what was really happening out in the world and have everything given to us and live in our little bubbles; or we could be aware and be able to make adult decisions earlier on in life. I didn’t like the idea of being fat or dumb, so I chose to be aware.
My father always pushed me to be better at what I did. From 7th grade – 9th grade I participated in Pennsylvania’s Junior Academy of Science and made it from Regionals to State competition and won first places at each one (6 awards in total.) Besides learning about science and being able to write a report on it, my father taught me how to communicate better to an audience and (somewhat) get me over my stage fright.
At the time I hated him for making me stand for hours at the front of our dining room with a borrowed projector from his company. I remember many times when I would storm out of the room, pride hurt, when my father gave me criticism and cry to my mother. We constantly worked on my presentations inside and out, backwards and forwards, timing it so that it was perfectly within the 10 minute time frame I was alloted – not too short, definitely not over. “You weren’t loud enough.” “You are speaking too fast.” “ANNUNCIATE.” “Remember to point.” “You point on the slide, not behind you.” Everything was carefully choreographed, and I admit, after the 3 years I was able to participate, I had become a champ at giving presentations. Later on he even gifted me with my own steel pocket pointer.
My last presentation I did for PJAS was done on a mathematical topic about Euler and computing the “shortest path” to a destination. Little did I know, that when my father originally was helping me brainstorm this topic, he was leading me down the path of learning more about networking and the internet (this was pre-1999, prior to me even getting on the internet by myself – and yes I was kind of a late bloomer in that respect.)
From then on, I began to lead myself along the path to computing and to discover what I wanted to learn about “making things work.”