A few years ago, I found myself at a developers meet-up – awkwardly holding a slice of pizza in one hand and rifling through my bag trying to find some courage with the other. The room had around 30 attendees and it was quite obvious that I was the only woman there. In fact, I dare to say that this meetup hadn’t seen a female developer in a while.
There were several clusters among the crowd, with people greeting each other, exchanging phone numbers and dev. experiences. No one approached me. Instead, people would walk towards me, take a look, pause, and then pass to greet the next person over.
After checking that I wasn’t approachable because I had a big pizza stain on my shirt, I finally walked over to a circle of men talking about code. The whole group went quiet. After a moment of silence, I was asked how my day was instead of what frameworks I’ve been working on. I tried to steer the conversation towards a more technical topic to no avail.
At first I got angry for not being taken seriously. A few days later my curiosity took over.
I started looking up the facts on the number of women working in tech and found that 92.8 percent of the respondents to Stack Overflow’s 2016 developer survey identified as male; while 5.8 percent identified as female. Only 25% of people working in IT are women and even those numbers include management, sales, admin and logistics support roles.
Soon I realised that we have a diversity problem and as a developer, set out to debug it.
I started searching the web and found several articles on incredible women that were directing, leading and assisting tech teams but was struggling to find people like me that were coding for a living. After a number of years of Twitter stalking and meet-up haunting, I put together a list of role models for myself but also for the purpose of inspiring other women to get into tech roles by seeing people that they could identify with.
Gina Trapani — Tech blogger, web developer, and writer.
Although she’s mostly famous for founding Lifehacker (a daily weblog to get help people get the most out of technology via downloads, shortcuts and website recommendations), Gina has worked on several projects that can inspire any woman to get into tech.
Professionally she’s built great apps and websites like Makerbase (a inspiring database of digital projects) but what I really love about her work is that she presents solutions to the diversity issues using tech. One great example of that is her project Narrow the Gapp, a website about the gender pay gap where you can search for your occupation and see what the gender pay gap currently is in America.
Sarah Clatterbuck — Senior director of engineering, LinkedIn
Sarah is a senior director of engineering at LinkedIn, and mostly work with people, teams, processes, and technical road maps. She codes on her own time and contribute a bit to an open source project that the LinkedIn team uses.
This is how she started coding:
I got into programming during college when I had an internship at a software startup. It took a few years and some additional education to make myself into a software engineer.
In order to get into programming, you have to be willing to take risks and to persist. A lot of learning is about trying things to see what happens. You have to be willing to make a lot of mistakes to get good at it.
Mehvish Mushtaq — App developer
In 2013, Melvish was the first woman from the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to develop an Android application. The app ‘Dial Kashmir’ features a directory (contact details of Essential and Commercial Services), business list, banks, prayer timings along with several other important services to around 5 million people around the Kashmir area.
Follow her on Twitter: @mehviish.
Shafi Goldwasser — Computer Scientist
Shafi received her PhD degree in Computer Science back in 1984 and has inspired women to get into the technology industry by her achievements ever since. She is responsible for work on interactive and zero proofs which allow secure transmission of information over the internet and has made important contributions to cryptography (the art of writing or solving codes).
Listen to an interview with her on the Microsoft TechNet blog.
Amanda Wixted — Computer game programmer
She’s worked on games like FarmVille, Live Poker, PAC-MAN, Ms. PAC-MAN for iPhone and is probably responsible for a lot of users addiction to computer and mobile games since most of them have reached the top 10 list on Apple’s App Store.
She encourages both creators and programmers to enter the game industry and writes in Cosmopolitan:
I’ve always preferred working just on the programming side, but if you’re a big-ideas person, or if you’re interested in both the artistic components and the programming, you can do both. Independent game developers — we call them indies — tend to do everything themselves. The more you can do, the more valuable you are to a company.
Kruti Patel – Android developer
She’s currently working at Isobar, Melbourne as a Senior Mobile Developer. Her daily work involves mobile apps programming, finding new tools and technologies to improve projects, get involved in the pitch process for any potential IoT work in order to know the feasibility of the work before committing to it, estimations and bit of team management.
Kruti realised that gender diversity in technology fields is a big issue in the western world and being one of the few female developers in Melbourne, she often got approached to participate in panel discussions to share her experiences in tech and challenges faced in a male dominant industry. That inspired her to start the Youtube channel A Woman That Codes where she talks about coding and interviews women that work with programming.
When I asked her how she got into programming, she responded:
When I was kid my Dad bought me a computer. That was the first time I was introduced to computers and computer games. I used to install so many games and play until I finished them. I was fascinated by how the characters used to animate when a button was pressed. I wanted to know everything about game development and the following year I studied FoxPro in my school as a computer subject. That phase of my life made me passionate for computers, games and programming.
And here’s what she would like to tell the women who want to start programming:
Just start it. Starting is always tough, programming is not something you will learn in a day but you will get better day by day. Try to understand the logic and see if you like programming. It’s no rocket science and it’s very rewarding when you see the beautifully crafted end product made by you and your team. Start with basics, understand basic programming languages like c/c++, HTML etc. Then move towards some advanced languages. That way you will have a better understanding of languages and programming. Connect with other programmers in your town and go to meet-ups. Networking will always help you when you are learning.
This article was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated in August 2017.