Woman. Not in tech.
~ 4 min read
Thank you, Livia Gabos, for helping me to improve this article by giving me feedback on it.
Before I became an intern with Outreachy, my Twitter bio read: "Woman. Not in tech." Well, if you didn't get the picture, let me explain that meant.
It all began with a simple request I received almost an year ago:
Hey, do you want to join our [company] event and give a talk about being a women in tech?
I don't have a job in the tech industry. So, yes, while society does put me in the 'woman' column, I have to admit it's a little hard to give a talk about being 'in tech' when I'm not 'in tech'.
What I can talk about, though, it's about all the women who are not in tech. The many, many friends I have who come to Women in Tech events and meetings, who reach out to me by e-mail, Twitter or even in person, who are struggling to get into tech.
I can talk about the only other girl in my class who, besides me, managed to get an internship. And how we both only got the position because we had passed a written exam about informatics, instead of going through usual channels such as referrals, CV analysis or interviews.
I can talk about the women who are seen as lazy, or that they just don't get it the lessons in tech courses because they don't have the same background and the same amount of time available to study or to do homework at home as their male peers do, since they have to take care of relatives, take care of children, take care of the housework for their family, most of the times while working in one or two jobs just to be able to study.
I can talk about the women and about the mothers who after many years being denied the possibility for a tech career are daring to change paths, but are denied junior positions in favor of younger men who "can be trained on the job" and have "so much more willingness to learn".
I can talk about the women who are seen as uninterested in one or more FLOSS technologies because they don't contribute to said technology, since the men in FLOSS projects have continuously failed in engage and - most importantly - keep them included (but maybe that's just because women lack role models).
Even though there are so many Women in Tech communities in Curitiba, as listed above, the all-male 'core team' of the local Debian community itself couldn't find a single woman to work with them for the DebConf proposal. Go figure.
I can talk about the many women I met not at tech conferences, but at teachers' conferences, that have way more experience with computers and programming than I. Women who after years working on the field have given up IT to become teachers, not because it was their lifelong dream, but because they didn't feel comfortable and well-integrated in a male-dominated full-of-mysoginistic-ideals tech industry. Because it was - and is - almost impossible for them to break the glass ceiling.
I can even talk about all the women who are lesbians that a certain community of Women In Tech could not find when they wanted someone to write an article about 'being homossexual in tech' to be published right on Brazil's Lesbian Visibility Day, so they had to go and ask a gay man to talk about his own experience. Well, it seems like those women aren't "in tech" either.
Tokenization can be especially apparent when the lone person in a minority group is not only asked to speak for the group, but is consistently asked to speak about being a member of that group. Geek Feminism - Tokenism
The things is, a lot of people don't want to hear any those stories. Companies in particular only want token women from outside the company (because, let's face it, most tech companies can't find the talent within) who will come up to the stage and inspire other women saying what a great experience it is to be in tech - and that "everyone should try it too!".
I do believe all women should try and get knowledge about tech and that is what I work towards. We shouldn't have to rely only on the men in our life to get things done with our computers or our cell phones or our digital life.
But to tell other women they should get into the tech industry? I guess not.
After all, who am I to tell other women they should come to tech - and to stay in tech - when I know we are bound to face all this?
For Brazilian women not in tech, I'm organizing a crowdfunding campaign to get at least five of them the opportunity to attend MiniDebConf in Curitiba, Parana, in April. None of these girls can afford the trip and they don't have a company to sponsor them. If you are willing to help, please get in touch or check this link: Women in MiniDebConf.