Archives for category: womenintech

It’s a good thing this blog post was written by a man. If it were written by a woman, she would be vilified among every feminist and mom (both stay-at-home and working ones!) circles. But instead, this blog post is lauded among techies, especially ones that think “omg this describes me to a T[-shape]”.

Women have actually already gone through this “full stack” baloney. Remember “Lean In”? “Having it all”? The plight of working moms? We’ve had these debates ad nauseum, and have come to the conclusion that not everyone can or wants to do everything, we shouldn’t speak down on people who can’t do it all, we shouldn’t put those who can do it all on a pedestal, and we shouldn’t force there to be a single “right way” of doing it.

I was just so glad someone wrote a decent response to the “full stack employee” post.

Unfortunately, the continuous pursuit of professional skillsets tends to diminish the boundaries between work and everything else, leaving you with less and less time to actually grow as a human being. – Elea Chang

Maybe that’s why we’re having such a tough time with diversity in tech. We’re asking people to value those who live and breathe work. Sure, loyalty and passion is great, but not at the expense of enjoying the rest of life. We’re spending so much time trying to do everything ourselves that we can’t understand that being human doesn’t mean being completely self-sufficient…it’s more about understanding enough about everything so you can talk and work with others effectively.

There will still be people and companies who only want “full stack employees” because it will be the buzz-phrase of the year, but I disagree that it’s going to be the future of work. I think it will be a detriment, because there will be constant “no, I’m a bigger polymath, I can do this” and “oh yeah? well can you do that?” that I just don’t know when they’ll ever get any work done. Maybe we’ll just put them in a room together with a bunch of new moms and see how that discussion goes. 🙂

Hipster techie: "I'm a true polymath. I do it all...front end, back end, biz dev, DevOps, Agile, scrum, Axure prototypes, Illustrator mocks, Quartz composer, XCode, Android Studio, Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Medium, marketing, SEO, I can beg VCs for money, build an IKEA bookshelf, buy organic groceries, use an espresso machine, I could probably change a diaper if I had access to a can't be harder than using XCode, can it? I can program the time on any device...I can---" Mom holding two kids: "--Yeah yeah, that's nice...but can you do all that AND MAKE MILK?"

The Full-Stack Employee vs. The Full-Time Mom

I admit I became interested in watching Halt and Catch Fire when I was flipping channels and I caught the guy saying at the beginning of the first episode that he was from IBM. I almost felt like they must have gotten an ex-IBMer as a consultant to make fun of IBM and amplify the blue-suited corporate weenie stereotype of its employees. But aside from that, I actually found the show to be interesting, especially the portrayal of women in technology.

Two of the main characters are a married couple, Gordon and Donna. Their relationship is strained, and is probably a result of Donna being seemingly more successful (and possibly smarter) than Gordon. If it’s one thing I learned from the book Lean In, it’s that in order for a woman to have a successful career and home life, she needs to marry the right man that is going to support her in her career and pick up the slack at home. That’s not happening here. I admit that I chuckled when Donna asks Gordon if he even knows the name of the kids’ pediatrician, or which one is allergic to apricots.


There is usually one primary parent that handles things like  permission slips or arranging doctor visits or summer camp or baking cupcakes for school parties, and it’s usually the woman. Yes, I’m sure there are some men out there that do it, but traditionally, men never had to worry about any of these things, so it doesn’t come naturally for them. I always found it odd that even before kids, while my husband and I both worked full days at an office, I would be the one that would have to leave work thinking about what to make for dinner. Which is kind of ironic, since back in caveman days, the men would bring home dinner. 😛

I’m not sure that such an accurate and painful portrayal of an alpha female at home who also happens to work in a technology field is  going to help the cause to get more young women into technology. Likewise with the other female character, who is a cocky and volatile coding genius. Makes for good tv, but a frustrating reality.

I’ve been wanting to write about my experience as one of those “elusive” female software engineers, but I haven’t actually had that many experiences with discrimination as a female software engineer than I have trying to become a designer-slash-developer. I think part of it is the culture of the company I work for (IBM), and the fact that there isn’t necessarily a lack of women in the company in all sorts of roles. I never feel hyper-aware if I’m the only woman in a meeting, because people I work with don’t really care what gender I am, as long as I can get the job done. Maybe it’s because I work from home and am usually the disembodied voice on speakerphone…but I really think it’s just because IBM is such a large, old company that we’ve been through the women in technology “crisis” since the late 19th century and have pretty much moved forward since then.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading up on the various experiences that other women go through. It’s hard for me to empathize with some though, especially the ones that refer to breaking the stereotype of a hot woman in heels not being able to write code.



I finally read an article today on that sort of addressed some of the concerns I had, but I was expecting it to be titled “I need ugly female software engineers”. 😛 Seriously though, it’s true as the writer says, women are somewhat held to a higher esteem than men. It’s not enough that a woman is just good at what she does, she also has to be good-looking, amiable, and if applicable, an awesome mother. It’s ok if a really smart and successful male software engineer has no social skills, is a poor dresser, and berates people in public forums…they are just seen as “quirky” but “genius”. There is this belief that girls don’t end up in computer science because it’s just not “glamorous” enough, and that we need to show girls that even those that wear makeup and 4-inch heels and mini skirts can be fierce as a programmer. Maybe women out there who are in tech should just keeping doing what they’re doing and be more outward about it, blog more, talk more about it like men more often do, and then it will become a goal of young girls to “be in computer science” rather than to “be a female in computer science.”

The “women having it all” debate isn’t new. Even before Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, even before I had my own blog post about it, there was this:

When I was a freshman in college, I took a class called “Introduction to the Visual Arts” that was your typical “easy humanities requirement”. We had to do a project that was to make an extension of your body and then discuss what it meant to us. One girl made a plaster cast of her boyfriend’s private part and talked about it. I wasn’t quite that “artsy” yet, so I did the only square thing I could think of, which was to make a flipboard of different “uniforms” and write a cheesy poem to explain it all. How embarrassing. I mean, why would I (someone with a fear of public speaking) make something so difficult for myself?

You can view the pages in the gallery above. I’m not going to read it out loud for you, it would be too embarrassing the second time.

Even back then, I wanted it all. Maybe it was a case of “I’m a freshman in college, I’m undecided on my major, I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life”, but I really think I liked so many things, I couldn’t just stop doing one to focus on another. I even wrote on a college scholarship application that my dream job was to be “an architect-slash-part time cartoonist”, but I couldn’t explain what that meant to the scholarship interviewer and I found myself getting defensive about it (probably why I didn’t get the scholarship :P). But maybe it really was HIS issue. Maybe HE couldn’t understand why someone would want to be one thing and also dabble in something else.

I think that’s partly why this “women having it all” debate keeps flaring up like a bad case of hemorrhoids. People can’t understand why women would want to have a demanding career if they have kids. I think part of the reason why women today have this overwhelming desire to “have it all” is because we were empowered by earlier generations to go to college, to get educated, to work, and we struggle now with either the guilt of letting down generations of women by focusing on family, or the guilt of letting other people raise our kids (or not having kids at all) because we are off being empowered. Most men are ok with having a demanding career if it means less time for family. Most women aren’t ok with that, because they feel guilty that they should be home with their kids. Yes, some women don’t feel guilty, and they end up “having it all” and being ok with their choices.

For the rest of us, we just have to realize that we can have whatever we want, we just have to be satisfied with our choices, and be thankful that we do have a choice.