Women have been active in the American workforce for more than 50 years, yet they continue to be treated less fairly than their male counterparts. Despite an battery of non-discrimination laws and frequent public insistence on equal pay for both genders, men still have it better … something that’s especially obvious in male-dominated occupations.
When you’re a woman trying to fashion a career as a developer, you have to drive hard for success. Otherwise, you’ll find it nearly impossible to get where you want to be.
Four Tips for Success
Successful female developers are certainly out there, but they remain few and far between. And though we could go on and on about unfair this is, that’s a discussion for another time.
Your best option is to knuckle down and focus on your situation. You don’t have to champion equality for all women; start with yourself, and then — once you have some credibility — you can work on the big picture.
Here are four central pointers:
Put Yourself Out There
“We don’t employ any female website developers at 10 Degrees,” the company’s business manager Lynda Vaughan writes. “There’s one very simple reason for that: we’ve never had any women apply for our developer vacancies. Not one.”
Believe it or not, this is a fairly common sentiment across the industry. Web development firms and tech companies simply don’t receive applications from women.
This obviously isn’t the entire problem, but it is a factor. If things are going to happen, you need to put yourself out there. Don’t let the fact that a company doesn’t have appear to have any female developers on the payroll dissuade you from applying.
Develop Thick Skin
Across virtually every industry, women are underpaid. Equal pay laws have failed to achieve their goal, and the disparity is clear for all to see.
You could let this rattle you and have an impact on your work, but you mustn’t let it get the best of you. Develop thick skin and let the inevitable slights or jabs roll off your back.
They simply aren’t worth tackling … particularly when you’re young and trying to carve out a place in the industry.
It’s okay not to know something.
Let’s repeat that: It’s okay not to know something.
“If you’re one of a few women in an environment, you tend to feel the need to represent every woman,” says Katie Lefevre, an instructor at an engineering school that caters to women. “So if you don’t know something, you feel like you are somehow letting everyone down by being a bad developer.”
No matter how vivid this may feel, it’s an utterly false way to view reality. Success as a developer is achieve through constant learning and inquiry.
If you don’t know something, find the answer. You’ll find it easier to earn the respect of your peers when you don’t try to hide your shortcomings.
Have Open Conversations
Although there’s a time to put your head down and ignore what’s going on around you, there’s also a time to speak up. For example, there’s a notion about women being “too emotional” in the workplace.
If you have a tendency to feel emotions, it can be tough to keep your feelings in check and overcome the stigma. Instead of avoiding this, tackle it head-on.
“I recently had a conversation with my team lead and mentor about my fear of choosing difficult tasks at work, because it will force me to admit when I don’t know all the answers. (And I don’t like admitting when I don’t know something),” software engineer Emma Wedekind writes.
“But by having this conversation openly, in a private room, and stating the facts of ‘When I do this … I feel this …’ it shows that you genuinely care about your project and career, without starting an all-out bawl fest.”
Once you’ve established a reputation and shown yourself to be a team player, open conversations can be healthy and productive. Let others know what you’re going through and how they can help.
It’s Okay to Dream Big
You have the freedom to set substantial goals and dream big to achieve them. Don’t let the gender gap in this industry hold you back from becoming a rock-star developer.
Get your foot in the door and show your peers who’s boss. It’ll take some hard work, but it can be done.