From Ellen Pao‘s failed lawsuit against her former employer (see her eloquent reflection here) and Uber sexual harassment reports to the infamous Google Manifesto, we’ve been hearing a lot of discouraging stories about the reality of women’s struggles in the male-dominated tech sector.
As a female software developer who helped support diversity initiatives at her former company, recently joined the Women in Tech group at her new workplace, and volunteers in her spare time on the Leadership Team at Girl Develop It Boston, I’ve dedicated my energy to connecting with and elevating my peers in the field. Based on stories I’ve already been told by fellow women in technology, I was less surprised than some at all the recent news. But I still needed to spend some time eating chocolate and blasting “Fight Song” on repeat.
And reading this book.
I cannot recommend this perky green tome — written by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens — highly enough. Between the covers are motivating, smart, and fun anecdotes from the founders of Girl Develop It, Jewelbots, Goldieblox, Microsoft’s HoloLens outreach program, and more. In-depth interviews reveal how these women discovered their passions, teamed up with others, weathered business ups and downs, and advocated for themselves in the face of discrimination. Some of them did so while pregnant.
The book also offers a fascinating look at how some colleges and universities — like Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA, and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA — have graduated more female computer scientists. These schools, the authors suggest, have been successful in changing the “hacker culture” on campus, doing away with computer science’s “nerdy male” stereotype.* How? Among other things, they host hackathons with a social innovation bent, start organizations for female computer science majors, and change the tone of their Intro to Computer Science courses.
I finished the book feeling fired up and dreaming of ways that I, too, could help make more concrete change. In a serendipitous moment this week, I stumbled across a terrific article with some great suggestions: “Want to Solve the Women in Tech Problem? Help Women Brag About Each Other.”
If you have other ideas about how to support women in tech — and books for me to read — send them my way! I’m currently really into non-fiction books and memoirs by and about strong women. To give you an idea of my interests, I recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Jessica Valenti’s Sex Object, and Lindy West’s Shrill.
I’ll be reading Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club next — Stay tuned for a review!
* (On that note, my dad sent a great New York Times article my way earlier this week: “Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd.” Claire Cain Miller writes that, when it comes to tech, “interpersonal skills like collaboration, communication, empathy and emotional intelligence are essential to the job.” I’ve found that to be true: Programming is a team sport.)