Julia Evans

What women in technology really think (150 of them, at least)


I’ve read tons of articles about or by women who work as developers. I read a thing yesterday and it was the best thing I’ve ever read. Yesterday I found a link to a survey on Twitter asking for the experiences of women who work in technology, and did the survey. There’s question at the end that asks

Any other comments you’d like to make?

I didn’t think much of it at the time – I said something (that I’ve had an incredibly good experience, but that it makes me very angry that other people have bad experiences). But then I looked at everyone else’s responses. It’s an amazing example of a wide range of women’s opinions and experiences, and I think you should read it. I’ve formatted all of the responses to that question a little better, or you can see the full survey results.

There are lots of negative comments, from women who are harassed or disrespected at work. We have a lot of work to do. But there are also a ton of very positive comments, from women who have supportive colleagues and mentors and enjoy their work and who feel respected.

I also loved the answers to What do (or did) you like best about working in tech?: the two most popular answers were “I enjoy the actual work” and “I like solving problems that are really difficult”. (about 75% of people). ME TOO THAT’S HOW I FEEL <3

Here are a few excerpts that I found particularly interesting: (though basically every response is interesting, and I think you should read them all.)

I feel that being female and over 40 has made my career feel much more tenuous. I worry that if I lost my job I wouldn’t be able to be hired again in my field.

I personally have not had many issues arise due to gender, but I feel this is largely because I tend to behave in a very male way by natural inclination. I tend not to notice or be disturbed by behaviour many women find inappropriate or intimidating. I don’t think it’s rare or acceptable, just not something I feel worried about for myself. It does frustrate me a lot to see other women experience it though.

For years I could say I had never felt or been held back in tech because of my gender. That is no longer the case.

I feel like I’ve had things pretty easy, in part because I often get along as “one of the guys.”

Currently very very happy in a great, friendly and supportive environment (being female, a mother, and part-time hasn’t stopped me getting promoted) - so they do exist!

I have a great working environment. […] Interestingly, we do have one engineer in particular who can be loud and overbearing and could, if given enough power, make the environment somewhat hostile – but that’s exactly why no one gives him that power.

I’ve experienced as much discrimination from female groups as I have from male-dominated organizations.

As of this past September, I’ve been 40 years in tech. It distresses me that: 1. the situation of women in tech has gotten worse, but 2: a lot of the women younger than I are behaving as if the problems they’re facing are new ones, and don’t look to the past to see what works/doesn’t work, thereby losing traction by repeating some of our (the older women’s) mistakes!

I have been electrical engineer 31 years. Still feeling odd to be only woman among colleagues

I feel more comfortable in a mostly-male environment. Probably because that’s how it was in my family, I had no sisters, but 3 brothers; and my relationship with my mother wasn’t as great.

I have no idea how much my male colleagues make. How are we supposed to find that out?

I love this industry and I doubt I’ll ever leave it, but it has a long way to go in order for it to grow up.

While I definitely recognize that this is some (maybe even a lot of) womens’ experience, I felt somewhat misled when directed here from Twitter to take a survey about “women in tech.” Would love a survey sometime to focus on us and all the cool stuff what we’re actually doing, rather than continuing to focus on aspects of tech that are primary brought on by men.

i feel like my employer might look the same as a really bad one based on the checkmarks but it is actually an overwhelmingly supportive env and any inappropriate situations are dealt with very well. that they come up in the first place is an industry wide issue - what differentiates companies is how they handle it.

I feel extremely fortunate to had a very kind, feminist man as my ph.d. supervisor. He made sure that myself and other aspiring women scientists were able to attend professional development seminars that were specifically aimed at helping women overcome gender-related discrimination in our field. I hope that in my future career I can pay it forward and help younger women advance their careers.

Ageism hits women harder than it does men.

There’s definitely “bro-culture” at work. If you’re not one of the bros, forget about going to lunch with upper management, getting that raise, or getting the best projects. A female coworker of mine was told to “just sit and look pretty” at a meeting once.

I’m very lucky that I work at a company that highly values equality and works to make sure our environment is a healthy one for everyone, with options for professional development and more.

I think I’ve been quite fortunate in that I’ve worked at companies that encourage and support women in tech. There have been individual male colleagues who have at times made work life difficult but I always felt like the company had my back. These individuals were spoken to by their managers and the issues were resolved.

Where’s the option to say I feel great, valued, treated equally, competent and successful?

Over the years, it was so subtle, but while men were promoted, I was sidelined and told I didn’t need additional leadership training. I watched peers go to new heights while I perfected and elevated my current role, but was never able to move beyond it because I was perceived as indispensable in that role, but it also locked me in away from management opportunities.

Aside from my boss, the people at work are great and supportive. I just feel like I am not good enough of a programmer and I’m bringing down the view of “women in tech.” I know that’s ridiculous and maybe it’s partially that it’s a bad job with work that I have a bitch of a time being excited about. […] But the thing is, I genuinely enjoy programming for myself, and enjoy the culture (aside from the nasty stuff!) so I can’t see myself ever leaving that.

Overall I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience as a woman in tech, and consider myself quite fortunate in that respect. I’m working in healthcare IT now, which has a great gender ratio and excellent people and meaningful work.

The tech industry is a great place to be and one day women will feel just as welcome as men to be in it. I hope I’ll get to see that day myself.

I realized recently that feeling “lucky” because I’ve only been sexually harassed by an executive once and denied access to a job once (that I know of) is insane. It might be getting off easy, but a guy would have sued. I would leave tech if I had any other skillset. I’m over the frat boy air hockey culture.

I genuinely had trouble thinking of women in tech I admired (aside from the two bosses I’ve had in the last 4 years, who are brilliant). I also got quite bummed out when I got to the question about my experiences and realised exactly how many boxes I could tick.

It wasn’t an option, but I have considered declining a perk at work, because I was afraid people would think it was a reward for a sexual favor. I’m always worried that people will think I get ahead, not because my work is great (it is!), but because I use sex in some way.

I’m so tired of being the only technical woman in the room. I’m tired of being the only woman in the room and having it assumed that someone brought their admin. I’m tired of people talking to my husband (also a software engineer) about technical things and trying to talk to me about family (I’m just as technical as he is, and we don’t have kids). I’m tired of people asking when I’m going to leave the field as if it’s a given. I’m afraid that it is a given.

These answers give me hope and also break my heart. I hope we can all make our own organizations better, and make everyone feel more like

“I feel great, valued, treated equally, competent and successful?”

and less like

“I’m tired of people asking when I’m going to leave the field as if it’s a given. I’m afraid that it is a given.“.

Working remote, 8 months in (seeing humans is important!) Fun with machine learning: does your model actually work?