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Nevertheless, Vannsl Coded, and Talked, and Wrote

Web Developer, Frontend Focus
・4 min read

How it's like to be a Woman in Tech AMA

You ask I answer: Twitter Call AMA

What's the biggest shit you had to deal with as a public speaker?

I like the way the writer has phrased this question. It doesn't ask for "if" but "the biggest". There are several examples, but it comes down to three main shits.

Ok, I decided to talk first about the "Designer" question. That might also happen to males as well if they studied Mediainformatics as I did:

You're a designer

The first is that I am not only a developer, I have also a background in Human-Computer Interaction. That's a fancy way of saying: I had 4 semesters of psychology courses with a strong focus on Application Design. That's about how to structure components on webpages so they work on mobile and desktop. It's about UX Flows and Accessibility. That's why on some of my portfolios it says that I have a focus on UX Design ADDITIONALLY to being a programmer. I can't tell you how many times people tell in my face: "Hey it's so great that you're talking about Vue.js. I mean, for a designer!"

Conference Organizers

Countless times I received emails such as: "Do you want to speak at our event? We need a woman" I'm not super mad at this. In most cases, people actually meant it friendly, they were just bad with words. What was rather funny happened at a web conference, you know, web development. The thing with computers and stuff. My lanyard said "Vortragender", the German word for "male speaker". In the german language, the default words are usually male. It's different than in English. A developer can be male or female. But in German, we have explicit female endings. It would have been "Vortragende". Since it was on a conference that explicitly asked for a female speaker, I asked why on earth it says the male form. They answered with: "Oh, you know, we asked the (male) PHP developer 4 months ago but he said that he can't change it in the database". It took me a few seconds to progress that. But, apart from all the obvious things I could have asked now, I asked: Why haven't you manually written and printed my lanyard. Without the database. Or just hand-written it. They could not answer. They don't have a gender field in their database table of speakers. Every person is male by default.

Ok, so those were the funny parts. Now to the hurtful memories. When sitting at the speaker dinner, female speakers is usually a topic that comes up once in the evening. The funny thing is, that often males discuss is, sitting next to me, and don't ask for my opinion. Not all of course. The worst thing that happened was a person that was ugly inside. He talked about a small conference he is organizing himself and that he has to say it's blind voting, but obviously, it isn't. Because if it would be blind voting, all speakers would be male, and "someone would kick him in the balls for that". But there is no way that a female would be voted. They are just not as good as the men. Btw, two female speakers were sitting with him at the same table. It was awful.

I heard stories about speaker rooms that female speakers get asked if they're looking for their husband (or worse things). It didn't happen to me.

Conference Visitors

  1. "That talk was really great!!! Especially for a woman!"
  2. "Wow, you don't look like usual female developers. I mean, you don't look like a male."
  3. "You're a designer, right?"

I am so sorry for all designers. I'm SO bad at UI Design. UX Design and Frontend Development are my strengths, but I don't have much practice in UI Design. I'm sorry that people tell me that I would be a designer like it is something less worthy.

Once I spoke at a "why speak at conferences" MeetUp. I had one personal photo in the beginning. It showed me doing a Spartan Obstacle Race. My story to that was that this event gave me so much confidence that I could translate into my job. On the MeetUp page, attendees could give feedback. One was "next time more personal pictures please". WHAT?!

How do you feel to be the only woman in an all-male podcast line-up?

Oh, very comfortable. You know, I am used to be the only female in all-male situations. The difference is the people. I was in situations with all-males because they scared females away. Of course, that's not nice. As long people are good people, I really don't care about their gender, race, age, whatever. If they are not nice, I don't like them. Simple as that. But the truth is, that I am not the only woman in the Podcast. We have a female person who does the post-production of the episodes. Unfortunately, you won't hear her on tape, but I know that she is there :)

What were your biggest challenges in taking/having leadership in software projects?

People have just a bit less trust or confidence than others would believe me. Or that I convince people about something. What I had to deal with was strategic discussions when it came to clients. Women (not men) thought it would be a smarter move to send a male developer, who had way less experience with the project as I did, to meetings about the planning of resources (Resources a.k.a real people).

Btw: Surprisingly, a lot of women have told me that I am not allowed to have a problem with the word "guys" because it's genderless. I don't respond to that anymore, I'm too tired. What happened at some company parties (before Corona) when people didn't know what I do for a living, they ask: "Are you doing Marketing?" 🤷‍♀️

Apart from this, I was really lucky. Most of the companies I worked for valued me for what I am: an incredible developer and wonder woman ;)

Discussion (1)

codebryo profile image
Roman Kuba

Thanks for sharing this Vanessa. I am truly sorry for the shit you have to deal with. And all women have to deal with! This is not okay.