I used to be a tech podcaster. We would stream our show live in front of a mostly male, mostly older, mostly techie audience, many of whom would join in a live chat that would scroll on a screen in front of us. Whenever I would lament the fact that there weren’t more women engineers designing the tech products we use every day, men would inevitably chime into the chat to say, “there weren’t ever any women in my CS classes,” or “all the women in my CS classes dropped out to do other things.” These virtual shrugs used to drive me crazy for so many reasons, one of which was that while they were probably mostly true, they didn’t really explain anything.
The real story of why there aren’t more women engineers is as complicated as people are complicated. Systemic sexism is real and so is bias in academia and hiring. In Better Programming, engineer Anna Carey tells her story about how she went from “metaphorically and (one time) physically” banging her head against a monitor in a basement computer lab to recently getting a job as a full stack developer during a time when the market is flooded with experienced engineers who’ve been laid off during the economic downturn.
Read this story if you’ve ever wondered why there aren’t more women engineers or why the ones who started in your CS classes never finished, or read it if you’re trying to get a job as an engineer right now, or read it if you’ve tried to pursue anything that takes extreme dedication and hard work that is made harder when you look around the room and don’t see anyone who looks like you.