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Nevertheless, Laurie Coded

Laurie
Software dev at Netflix | DC techie | Conference speaker | egghead Instructor | TC39 Educators Committee | Girls Who Code Facilitator | Board game geek | @laurieontech on twitter
・4 min read

I began coding when I was 14 for a class in high school. I didn't think it was "real" coding. Throughout college I continued to take some coding classes and eventually found my way to my first developer job despite a detour or two. I love my story, I'm proud of my story and it's a lot longer than what I just posted. The problem, is that wonderful "how I started" stories don't feel like they capture the reality of being underrepresented in this industry.

We're improving the numbers of diverse applicants every day, but we're not moving the needle because they don't stay. I want to use today to talk about how that has affected me, and the burden I think we collaboratively share amongst women and non-binary coders.

I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe. See evidence from yesterday below!

Marvel comics are full of plenty of female superheroes. The sad part is that it took 15 movies for us to finally get one that stars a woman in the leading role. I'm going to see that movie tonight, but I've been following the trolls and neysayers online for weeks. The ones who are upset that they're being "forced" to watch a movie with a hero they think they won't relate to. Those that spent time and energy submitting terrible reviews for a movie that hasn't been released yet. This situation has been weighing on me and I think it's because it hits so close to home.

As a woman in technology I constantly see others trying to carve out space for us in this industry. So that male is no longer the default, so that our participation doesn't feel like forced, shoe-horned representation but valid, intelligent voices that belong just as much as anyone else. We've seen constantly how the more attention an underrepresented engineer gets, based on her amazing contributions to the industry, the more she is a target for harassment and those who wish to constantly question her technical credentials.

It's exhausting and some days you just want to sit it out. But many days we want to fight. Fight for our place and to prove the jerks wrong.

So we try to make ourselves representative. We look at the spaces where there aren't enough of us, and we try to join them. We hope that our existence and contributions in these spaces will encourage others to keep fighting, or maybe even change minds.

For me, there are so many fellow female engineers who have less ability to take their personal time to fill up those spaces. So I've tried to take advantage of the time I have at this moment, and the experiences I bring. I've been focusing on making myself more visible so I can be a resource and representation. This means speaking at conferences about everything from DevOps, to Javascript applications, to communication and gatekeeping vocabulary in technology. I've been blogging more than ever before as a chance to encounter new technologies and improve my ability to convey technical topics simply. I continue to volunteer in my local communities from the beginning of the pipeline to the end, supporting my colleagues and friends who do so much. I've started contributing to open source projects where I can. I participate in Twitter chats to discuss relevant topics and support those just starting out on their coding journey. And I continue to try my best to be a wonderful contributor to my company's development team, growing my skillset and elevating my abilities.

Lizzie McGuire cartoon looking dizzy

But I'm one person, we're all only one person. And that list is just too long. I've been putting so much energy into taking up more space in this industry but it still feels like it's never enough. That is the curse of being under represented, you want representation everywhere, so you try to fill the gaps. But the reality is that none of us can do it all. So I'm going to fail this year. I'm going to stretch myself, fall short, burn out, be exhausted, whatever it is. And then I'm going to be supported by friends to get back up and try again. Or maybe they'll recommend I rage quit for a few weeks and take a break. Having a support system of people who experience this industry in ways similar to you is so critical!

I continue to code in 2019 because I see so many people who were deterred. I work with girls in middle and high school learning to code, I am encouraged that their generation will receive more support to pursue STEM than previous decades of students. I also continue to code because of the stories I hear from talented, passionate women who no longer feel they have a place in this industry, and don't want to fight to carve out a tiny space anymore.

From those with the spark of interest in code, to those who have been coding for years, it seems like the frustrating stories often outweigh the positive ones. Everyday that I code and contribute to my communities I feel as if I'm one more woman pushing against the cultural forces that want to keep us out.

Discussion (1)

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Ali Spittel

🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

Laurie, you're a huge inspiration. Thanks for being such a fantastic member of the tech community, both in DC and beyond! (And being my go-to person to talk about speaking stuff)