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Another Year Of Being in Gender Minority in Tech

It's time for Dev's annual We Coded campaign again, and it's the fifth time I'm participating. You can find my previous contributions from the links above. This year, I want to share experiences from another year as someone in gender minority in tech. I'll share some not-so-pleasant experiences and, after that, some moments of allyship.

Note that the stories I'm telling are from encounters with (assumed) men - and I'm referring to them generally as men here. I chose this approach because this celebration is about gender minorities in tech, and men belong to the majority. So, I'm not trying to paint a picture of men being something awful; it's more about the minority-majority aspect here.

Also, a content warning: I'm sharing some comments containing misogyny.

Sometimes it Just Sucks

I've seen many men choose the path of not being a nice person. I'll share some stories from the past year alone.

There was this conversation in one Finnish tech-related Slack community where someone shared a piece of news about women not feeling welcome in tech. Multiple men were telling how this all is 90% in the heads of women, and how the way to solve the issues would be to stop using words like "tech bro" when describing, well, tech bros, and that it's not a problem because they haven't witnessed it.

When people who had witnessed and experienced the problems spoke up, they were either just ignored or told that they were "white knights," depending on the assumed gender.

Oh, and that conversation had my all-time favorite argument: "What about the x, y, and z fields? They don't have a proper gender balance." And that was said in a tech-centered Slack community, where the talk was about how women in tech feel excluded. I don't know if you noticed, but the topic was about tech, not the other fields.

I've also been told that women should respect men, and I don't belong even in a kitchen, but a cave, to learn about respect all the things men have done for me. This person made the threat in March last year, after I shared a LinkedIn post about gender equality and how some technologies are biased. Here's the whole comment:

LinkedIn comment where Marko R. says some really mean things.

There have been countless times that I've been speaking up about something related to tech, and my (man) colleague has needed to repeat what I've said to get the point through. And countless times when a man has been praised for something that I've done.

When talking about tech, I've been physically blocked from the conversation, as in I was standing in the circle of people and having a conversation, but when we started talking about the tech, one person turned their back on me, forcing me out of the circle.

And then there was this one incident, which paints a picture of our doubts: Is it me and something I did, or my gender? I was speaking at a conference and had just ended my talk. A person came to me and started giving their opinion about my talk. They used phrases like "I'm a speaker myself, and I teach speakers" and "You should have done the talk completely differently".

Let's pause here, I'll explain something. If you have ever spoken at an event, you know that the adrenaline rush speaking gives probably makes the minutes right after stepping down from the stage the worst time to give that kind of feedback. You will hardly remember anything the person said, just the feeling you had.

So, I thanked the person for their feedback (that was all I could do) and went somewhere quiet to calm down. I later spoke with several co-speakers at the conference, and they confirmed what I had thought: The feedback that person gave was not okay.

In those moments, it's tough to be a person from gender minority in tech. You never know if they would've given that same feedback to anyone in that situation - even if the speaker was a man - or if it was because the person felt somehow threatened by there being someone professional on the stage who is not from the majority.

The final example I wanted to share is from Dev. During the past year, I've shared several blog posts about gender equality, and last year's #WeCoded-post hit the jackpot. I mean, I knew that there would be at least some hateful comments, but the content surprised me. It's been getting worse year after year.

The comments were moderated pretty fast, but they contained things like drawing a line between asking for equality to mass murders and about wishing for "simpler times" - so, the times when it was women's job to just take care of the children and home, and be of service to men. And definitely not be a professional in any field. Oh, and then there was this one comment about enforcing equality being fascist.

These are just some examples from the past year. I've faced a lot more, but this already paints a picture that tech is not yet equal for all genders. We need to do better.

You Can Be an Ally

Not all I've seen has been bad, and I'm thankful for that. I want to share some examples of allyship regarding gender equality in tech, too.

First, remember that part where I told you I needed a man colleague to repeat what I had said for the thing to be heard? That same colleague did that tirelessly and kept acknowledging the problem (that they needed to repeat what I said) and speaking up about it. So, they weren't trying to take credit for my ideas, but they amplified them, gave credit to me, and tried to solve the problem.

Then there were the other speakers I mentioned in the example about the feedback at the conference. When I got myself back together and could talk about the experience without starting to cry (yes, it felt that bad), the other speakers were understanding and on my side. They acknowledged the problem and assured me I didn't imagine the problem there. So, if you recognize yourself and remember being there and one of those people, thank you!

There's also one person close to me, without whom I wouldn't have survived through the last years. We've had so many conversations about gender equality in tech and all the things I've seen and endured, and that person has always listened to me, acknowledged the inequalities, and never questioned my feelings. They've also let me just rant and haven't tried to solve the problem in that situation. Everyone should have a person like that.

Wrapping Up

In this blog post, I've shared my experiences from the past year as someone in gender minority in tech. There have been a lot of nasty things, but good things as well. Without the goods, I would have already left tech - something I've been thinking more and more about over the last year.

If you're in gender minority in tech, how has the last year been for you? And if you aren't, what are you doing for more equal tech? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Top comments (15)

cbid2 profile image
Christine Belzie

Thanks for sharing your story @eveis! :) It’s unfortunate but not surprising that men tend to be praised for repeating their female colleagues’ suggestions. 🙄 The screenshot you posted reminds of an incident I experienced for last year’s wecoded. I wrote a discussion post on here where I question and express my frustration in the lack of visibility that womxn-owned/maintained open source projects

. As predicted, I did receive a comment from a man/male-presenting person that said, "This comes across as whiny. Everyone struggles in tech. GitHub does not have a gender check status"(the comment is no longer there as the mods took action to suspend this person). I was tempted lecture him, but I quickly realized that would be free labor, something womxn should avoid when dealing with immature men.
eevajonnapanula profile image

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised about that comment you received. I've seen so many similar ones here in Dev and other platforms as well, and it feels like the amount of such comments increases every year :/ And funny thing about that comment you received is that there have been many studies which have showed time and time again that womxn struggle significantly more in tech because of bias, their PR's get rejected in open source communities more easily if their gender is identified, and they (we) need to prove ourselves more often than men.

I was tempted lecture him, but I quickly realized that would be free labor, something womxn should avoid when dealing with immature men.

💯 I love that comment! That's so perfectly said!

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington • Edited

Eevis, thanks so much for continuing to share your thoughts and experiences with us each year! I'm sure it's not easy to speak up and share these truths when there are so many folks out there trying to put you down and shut you up.

I've seen it happen on DEV to you multiple times... in every situation, you're explaining your experiences and calling for more equality, but there's some response from someone who is trying to belittle, gaslight, or otherwise put down what you're sharing in some way. Folks can try to misconstrue your words & motivations (like they have below), but when I see this it just further proves your points. And despite all this pushback, you continue to raise your voice and make your experiences known.

All that to say, you are seriously inspiring! I hope you know how incredibly strong you are, and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us. 🙌

eevajonnapanula profile image

Michael, thank you. Thank you so much for this comment. I appreciate it a lot 💖😭

thomasbnt profile image
Thomas Bnt ☕

I've also been told that women should respect men, and I don't belong even in a kitchen, but a cave, to learn about respect all the things men have done for me. This person made the threat in March last year, after I shared a LinkedIn post about gender equality and how some technologies are biased.

Oh.. well.. 🤯
It's hard at times to see this kind of highly inappropriate comment... In any case, I give my support to all of you, you deserve better than this trash ❤️

eevajonnapanula profile image

Thank you 💖

jess profile image
Jess Lee

Nodded along and cursed under my breath for the first half of that. Thank you for the important read.

eevajonnapanula profile image

Thank you for reading!

renancferro profile image
Renan Ferro

Wow, thanks for sharing! I really can't understand why people act this way, they choose to be mean people instead of being nice people or something like that. Congratulations on not letting this type of person beat you and know that you and all women are simply very strong!

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