Code Like a Girl

Today is a Blog Action Day when all bloggers are encouraged to blog about issues that are important to them, primarily to raise awareness among their readers. You may gather from the title of this blog what issue this post will be about.

We live in interesting times. The rights that women enjoy around the world are so non-uniformly distributed. Take, for example Sweden or Norway where talking about gender division almost no longer makes sense – they have broken down and extinguished gender bias from their society. Then look at the Middle East. I find it mind-boggling that in today’s day and age a woman cannot walk in a street unsupervised by a man? What can she possibly do if she is unsupervised? Commit a crime, disgrace the family? Most likely just run away…

Anyway, the main point of this blog is not as far reaching as the problems of the Middle East. Instead I will aim closer to home. A few years ago Always ran a #LikeAGirl campaign to highlight the inherent prejudice women face on the daily basis. When participants were asked to do something “like a girl”, they would emphasize the weaker, feebler, and less confident characteristics of whatever they were asked to portrait. And it was not just the male participants. Women of all ages took part and they too interpreted “like a girl” as meaning weaker, less capable of… No one responded to the request by saying: “Like a girl? You mean just normally, like a human being that just happens to be a young female?”.

So, why is this happening? And to what extend women are responsible for this? In my view, this is happening because women and girls allow this to happen and they are very responsible for the extend of the stigma. Note that this is not a blame. This is a conclusive statement based on what I have personally experienced and observed. I too went through a period of self-doubt, questioning if Computer Science was the right career choice for a female. I also used to feel uncomfortable in university computer labs occupied primarily by guys. I rejected the idea of blending-in by trying to be more manly, but I did avoid wearing earrings or make-up in class as to not emphasize the obvious. I did talk myself out of participating in coding competitions because almost all contestants would be men. Therefore, I too am responsible for carrying the gender divide around with me in a pocket for daily use, for a long time. But, luckily, there was a point at which I stopped. Because I got tired of comparing myself and questioning my decisions. I also got tired of seeing how easily, both, men and women apply the double-standards. If you are girl, do everything like a girl. Live your whole life like a girl. Make sure you do emphasize the obvious and don’t try to blend in. “Embracing who you are” became such a cliché statement, but it concisely summaries what I am saying. Drop the gender divide yourself before you ask others to do the same. And lastly, code like a girl too. A lot.