There are many “right ways” to be a woman in tech, and I hope that people have learned to welcome you with open arms. But at the same time, I worry that some women may not feel brave enough to ask if they are welcome.
I have something subversive to share with you.
I once felt that to be a woman in a male-dominated field (that’s just existing, not even excelling) you had to be as un-female as possible. I had this suspicion in the back of my mind that not allowing women to express themselves as women (but then also claiming them as part of your diverse workforce) — I had this suspicion that it was a lie.
Then I had two great chats with two great women, and I’m going to share their wisdom forever. And I’m writing it here so that you can, too.
- Helen 侯-Sandí and I were at a WordCamp afterparty and wearing very fancy dresses. I told her I felt self-conscious because “it was too feminine” (it wasn’t) and her response was “Women have boobs. If we want women in technology, men will have to learn that boobs** aren’t what keep people from being developers.”
- I told my sister I was having a heckuva time choosing the color of my laptop. I was stuck on “If I get a pink one, will anyone take me seriously?” and also “Should I be working to dignify WordPress overall” (by getting a dark grey laptop? idk). And she said to me “Anyone who will choose not to take you seriously because your laptop is pink was already not going to take you seriously. Get a pink laptop and remind them that women are leaders, too.”
That is when I saw through some distracting self-perpetuating nonsense:
- Women, do not shame other women for being too feminine.
- Women, do not shame other women for being too masculine.
- Women, do not shame others for not fitting your idea of who they should be.
It’s hard enough out here trying to smash this towering patriarchy. Don’t hamstring everyone from within. Get your sister-phoenixes and get the heck ready to rise.
*Tech and medicine and any other male-dominated field out there.
**The use of the word “boobs” isn’t a vocabulary choice that you would associate with my blog, and especially not in a post labeled “leadership”. However, I felt that given Helen’s notoriety, no one would believe me if I pretended that the word choice was anything but that.
We still need to extend our ideas of “masculine” and “feminine.” Those definitions change over time and are different in different places. They shouldn’t be weaponized, any more than terms like “baroque” and “minimalist.”.
I think that’s definitely true! Language is ever-evolving, and when our world changes it makes sense that our definitions should extend as well.