Women comprise the minority of technology professionals – does that make them feel isolated?
Not as much as some might think, according to several female developers that we talked to. Gender, they say, can be contributing factor to a sense of loneliness that is simply part of the job. At the same time, being one of a handful of women – if not the only one – in a technical organization can make some feel apart.
It’s the hectic and ever-changing nature of the work itself that contributes to the sense of isolation some women coders feel, says Susan Buck, co-founder of the online community the Women’s Coding Collective. “Keeping up is a challenge, and you compound that with being one of the few women, and it can be difficult,” she observes. In addition, notes another woman, a former Web developer at Yahoo who now works at a large healthcare IT company, developers often move from team to team, which can lead to a sense of isolation as they settle in.
Indeed, this developer, who asked not to be named, saw age as a factor when it came to setting her apart. As her team members at Yahoo got younger, her sense of isolation grew. “Most of the younger guys were relatively inexperienced, not long out of college, and perhaps not used to knowing any women coders,” she says.
Still, she observes that with relatively few women working in tech, the subtle prejudice against women is a factor to confront. And it can certainly influence how women perceive their job.
Given the solitary and ever-changing nature of the work, it takes a certain kind of attitude to pursue a programmer’s or developer’s career. But women face additional pressures to forge ahead and establish themselves as strong team members. “I’ve always been a woman who has been successful in what are typically considered male roles,” says the former Yahoo developer. “And I’d like to send girls the message that it doesn’t matter if you’re the only woman working with 100 men. Learn to get along with your coworkers, and they’ll likely be more motivated to get in touch with you.”
If you are feeling isolated as a woman in tech, addressing that may take reaching outside of your company to establish a network of supportive peers, says Buck. Just because other women aren’t on your team doesn’t mean other women tech professionals aren’t nearby. “Locally, I’d start by looking on Meetup.com and seeing if there are any women-in-tech focused groups in your area,” she suggests. Eventbrite is another good place to look.
If you happen to be in an area that doesn’t have an active group of women developers, reach out through online communities and social networks. For example, the Women’s Coding Collective has a general forum where you can virtually meet other women in tech. Buck also recommends checking out the Anita Borg Institute on social media.
However you do it, “It’s important to seek out communities of women coders and developers who can serve as inspiration and a sounding board,” Buck says.
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- Women in IT Face Down Stereotypes and Bias
- Top 10 Tips for Retaining Women in Technology
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