Soundbyte 341: Running Up That Hill
(For best results, image me — tall, white, handsome, rich and super duper smart — standing naked in a busy shopping street, screaming the words below and blaring Kate Bush through my phone speaker.)
Oh my god, my Luminis Soundbyte™ debut, I’m so excited! While cleaning the bathroom every Sunday (also naked, except for the latex gloves), I always try to image what it would be like to be a Zomergast. What footage to show? There’s so much to choose from! What message would I try to convey? What do I drink? How much of it? It keeps me awake at night, as you can probably imagine.
Inevitably, I will be on TV for three hours straight one long summer night, and I have to come prepared. What better place to practice than right here with you? So let’s start and see how many feathers I can ruffle before being banned from the premises.
First of all: the DevCon, am I right?! What a day. I’ve only attended half of it since I had to play Sheriff at my daughter’s school camp, but what a half day it was. The opening keynotes alone have left me with enough to think about until #DevCon19. So much was said! I agreed with half of it, a third I didn’t understand yet, and the remaining 50% have left my mind in a feverish state, like a gritty Black Mirror episode tends to do.
Agreed: software people need to be good at their craft, sure, that one seems logical to me. The business stuff flew right over my head, unfortunately, like it always does, sorry. But what triggered me especially was the tech-industry-gender-problem stuff.
The consensus seems to be that we need a more diverse engineering populace, because reasons. Fine, I agree, everyone seemed to. But how? I loved Sam Aaron‘s Sonic Pi approach: creativity first, with an emphasis on fast feedback and iterative learning. I applaud the DevCon organisers for helping him fight the good fight. I wish I had the gender neutral balls to do what Sam does.
So what about us, what can we do? Sure, we can express the need for more women. We can project the problem statement on a big screen. We can make the few ladies that do attend our conference stand up so we can all see how horribly skewed the balance is in this regard. But what else are we communicating? What signals are we sending out when presenting our male-dominated speaker line-up? What about the emphasis on hard skills and rigor?
(Ruffle, ruffle, ruffle, hehehe)
While attending and speaking at Codemotion Amsterdam last year, the first thing I noticed was the refreshing number of women present. (Can a number be refreshing? Probably.) I tried to talk to as much of them as possible and figure out if and why they were working in tech. Most of them started out studying something completely different and ended up in creative or managerial jobs. Then, while working with techies, they noticed that programming was surprisingly more creative or ‘soft’ than they thought. Long story short: after some schooling they were programmers themselves now.
Why the detour? Why did most of them not even consider studying programming or computer science? I tend to think: because it’s a boy’s club and we want to keep it that way. At least, that is what we are (apparently) communicating. Not verbally, though. But with our conference line-ups, our bro-culture, our emphasis on hard skills, our subtle sexism.
I was rejected (three times!) for Codemotion Amsterdam this year. Of course, I am super bitter about that. But their line-up made me happy.
So, final thoughts, for the three remaining readers. What can you do to help? Glad you asked! I’m not sure. I think it is already very helpful to be aware of the issues minorities face in our industry. You can listen to the Techionista talk show, watch a Silicon Valley episode, or do what I do: follow as much tech minorities on Twitter as you can. It’s like peeking into a parallel universe.
In the future, we maybe can swap places for a while, like Kate Bush envisioned almost 33 years ago in her classic Running Up That Hill.
Have a great week!
P.S.: I want to thank Bert Ertman and Denise Neurink for giving me the opportunity to write a Soundbyte, I loved doing it!
P.P.S.: All ranting aside, I am really proud to be working for a company that organises these amazing DevCons all the while allowing idiots like me to voice their opinions (publicly!) online and thus encouraging conversations about what it means to do what we do.