The tech world is stereotypically a male-dominated domain, but the gender landscape in that field is fortunately changing. When I attended Boing Boing: Ingenuity last month, I was really happy to see that so many of the speakers were brilliant female scientists, artists, and makers talking about the amazing, complicated, and life-changing work they're doing. But there's still a long way to go before we can say that the tech world is a level playing field. Luckily, there are several women (and men) leading the way towards more gender equality in tech.
Hackbright Academy in San Francisco is an engineering fellowship dedicated to training more women to become software engineers. Through a 10-week program, Hackbright explains, its graduates have become employable developers at companies like Facebook, Eventbrite, and SurveyMonkey. These are women who had little to no computer science backgrounds and who weren't computer geniuses from an early age.
I asked Angie Chang, Director of Growth at Hackbright Academy, to share some tips for prospective techie women on how to face the challenges and stereotypes that come with the domain. Here are a few gems that Angie shared:
Love what you do – and show it
By sharing your love for your job and showing your expertise through leadership in a very visible way, you will create a more inclusive tech community. Imagine this – there will be more diversity in tech conference speaker lineups and hackathon demos because women are present and accounted for. "Brogrammer meetups" will simply become programmer meetups, and more women will start and lead tech startups.
Always carry business cards with your name and title
One Hackbright student got her first programming contract job while at a happy hour party. She was only two weeks into learning Python, but she had a business card with her name and the title "software engineer" on it, which gave her the confidence to tell people she was a developer. Today, she's a software engineer at Eventbrite.
Give tech talks when asked (and when you are not!)
Women are often underrepresented in conference speaker lineups and industry events. They are often not asked to speak because they are not visible in the community. So be visible – Tweet a lot, blog about what you know, give talks! Understand that you might not always be asked to speak. O'Reilly and other industry conferences have calls for talk proposals. Step up and volunteer to do it. When you do, other women will thank you.
Be the change you wish to see in the world
Start a company that solves the problem you have. Former IBM engineer Leah Busque, founder/CEO of TaskRabbit, did this when she realized the market needed task "rabbits." She coded the prototype of her startup over a summer and raised venture funding, and rest is history. These days, women are solving deeper technical problems, rolling out their own solutions, and standing a better chance at starting the next big tech company.