Amy Stephen

Hacker Grandma


I Can Do It Myself

I don’t need help. I am not needy. I can do it myself. I am not a victim.

That can do attitude is important for success but it can be very unhealthy for women, individually, and counterproductive for working together to address shared problems.

Most women in technology are aware of the wage gap. We understand we work in an industry where we are considered as rare as unicorns. We have experienced the negativity of gender bias, each with our own stories about how difficult the journey has been. The vulgar conversations, the come ons, the discrimination, watching less experienced men we trained get opportunities we deserved.

Anytime we are wronged, it leaves us feeling vulnerable, unloved, alone. Discrimination brings shame. We know if we complain about being passed over, a list of reasons will be presented to hold us in our place. We learn to be silent. To wait. To work harder. To keep it inside. To look at it with “perspective”, I mean, it’s not like we had a child die, right?

We internalize.

I’m here to tell you that you can live that way for decades. You can be successful if you are willing to put in the extra effort and time and take that time from personal growth or support of your family or rest.

It’s a matter of attitude whether someone is helping maintain the status quo or helping the community adapt for more diverse participation.

  • If your first response to disappointment in 5% women speakers at a community conference is “Yea, but, how many women applied?”, you are responding defensively and introducing a barrier to addressing the issue.
  • If you say “Maybe women don’t like to code.”, your response discourages anyone working on ways to encourage those who do.
  • When you say, “I don’t discriminate.” You are excusing yourself from helping resolve the problem. If you are in a decision-making role, your attitude can create a real barrier to necessary change.
  • If you immediately call out “I don’t want to be a token woman speaker!” or “Why would we select less qualified people just because of gender?” you are actually saying talented women, including yourself, don’t exist or aren’t worthy.
  • If you say “Everything is fine for me!” you are shaming those for whom it’s not fine.

Imagine holding back those responses and approaching the discussion a little bit differently. Begin by allowing yourself to see those issues you, as a woman, face. Give yourself that deserved acceptance that discrimination isn’t your fault. Acknowledging that while you have overcome the odds, it wasn’t right that you had to invest so much of yourself to do so.

If you can do that, you let go of shame that comes with discrimination and your heart opens to helping others. You can be compassionate. Recruiting women isn’t a negative, it’s a positive. Diversity isn’t politically correct it’s inclusive and it builds a stronger community with a larger pool of talent and skill.

So many times, as women, we learn to endure, to buck up, to take it, to balance it all, to be superstars. We’re good at that.

What we need to learn is acknowledge the reality of our world and work together to bring improvements for everyone and to do so without shame, without a sense of failure or neediness, but rather as proud members of a strong community.

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