#ChooseToChallenge: Don't just bring me flowers
When I was a teenager, March 8 was just a day that women got flowers. But in the last few years, International Women's day became more and more important to me. As blog posts of my fellow coder's show, we're nowhere near the goal of men and women being equal. And flowers are not going to change that. But things like #choosetochallenge might.
Place for our voice
Although the end goal is to make men and women equally present in the tech field, we're not there yet. And striving toward that goal means that we need to take some measures until those measures will eventually become obsolete. That means special treatment of women.
It's hard for the only woman in the team to speak up.
It's hard for a female developer on Twitter to be loud when she sees 20 'Twitter-famous' female developers and 200 male ones.
It's hard for a woman to go to a conference where she'll be surrounded by male developers.
That's why special places need to exist.
Places, where she doesn't need to be brave to speak.
Places, where she's especially welcomed.
That's why I'm glad #choosetochallenge exists.
That's why I love it when there are some tickets at the event reserved especially for women.
And that's why I occasionally create a tweet where people are invited to tag only women coders, not everyone.
And that's why I have an invitation for female coders to write to me in my Twitter bio.
Because we need that special place, for now.
There are very obvious inappropriate behaviors that put women in an inferior position. Like a male coworker's uninvited sexual attention towards you. Or your coworkers commenting on a physical appearance of a client or a coworker. The workplace is not a place where this kind of behavior should be tolerated.
But there are less obvious acts that are hurtful toward women:
Saying that a woman in tech/any other male-dominated career is unfeminine
No behavior makes a woman more or less feminine. She is who she is.
Being surprised she can do something despite her being a woman
Admiring some skill some woman has is great. But singing her praises just because she did something that is not expected for her gender (like hammering a nail in) is sexist.
Expecting her to do something just because she's a woman is sexist.
Always putting the task of writing notes during a meeting to a woman, because she probably 'has a pretty handwriting' is sexist and not appropriate for the 21st century.
Just because you camouflage it as a joke, it doesn't mean it's ok.
Changes this big take time. And even though many of us are taking the steps toward reshaping the perception of women in tech, a non-gender biased environment in tech is probably something that only future generations will be able to experience.
Teach your daughters, nieces, and other little girls that they can do whatever they put their minds to, not just 'girl' things. Try to spark their interest in science, math, and programming. Don't teach your kids about 'male' and 'female' roles. Teach your sons and nephews to respect women and that household chores are something that should be done by "people", not by women.
Don't limit a little woman to your expectations. Her wanting to wear a blue shirt and playing with dinosaurs is great. Her wearing a pink skirt and playing with barbies is great.
I once saw a little girl in a skirt playing soccer. She was the best little goalkeeper I ever saw. It was awesome. She took something considered 'feminine' and something considered 'masculine' and made it her own.
Becoming a parent changes a lot and this is more true for the mothers. Pregnancy many times requires either to work less or take the time off and in the countries that have maternity leave, that means leaving the workforce for a while. When coming back, you have a tiny human being to take care of and that makes a good work-life balance a necessity. According to the research by Christine L. Williams, mothers and prospective mothers experience intense work-life conflict.
We need to stop equating a good employee with an employee that works long hours. That puts mothers at an unfair disadvantage. Even if she's highly efficient, she isn't perceived like that, because she doesn't work long hours and she takes time off to take care of a sick child. We also need to stop allowing for maternity leave to affect the career. Temporarily leaving a job to take care of a little human being that on your old age might be your doctor or your kind neighbor is important, not just for her and her child, but also for you. And it should be respected, not looked down on.
The expectation of a woman having a kid and start working less also concerns the child-less. Employees will expect her to have a child eventually and will be reluctant to give her a job in the first-place or promotion later in the career.
Pandemic hit mothers hard.
According to The New York Times, 900.000 mothers left the workforce due to pandemic in the USA.
I, living in Europe, had to revise my career plans because kindergartens were closed for months and can close again in a matter of days. Once the pandemic is over, we need to do everything in our power to help those women to get back in the workforce. And we must not see them leaving as a weakness and something that puts them at a disadvantage. They already made their sacrifice, let's not make them sacrifice even more.
The coding world is a world of great opportunities. But in a world where women are so scarce, it can be hard being a woman.
If you're a woman, be brave, so the next generations won't need to be.
If you're a man, don't be mad if we get special treatment. We need it, so we won't need it anymore.
Happy International Women's day!