Friday, September 26, 2014

Gender never was an issue to me until...

I've been thinking about this blog post and whether I should write and publish it for several months now. This is strange for me, as I usually follow the mood and write about things that I think of at that point.

Over a year ago, I remember tweeting a reply to someone on my experience of having never been mis(treated) for my gender in tech. I studied Computer Science at Helsinki University of Technology and don't recall anything but positive discrimination - everyone was very helpful to me, most likely because of my gender. I felt included, one of the bunch. I spent long nights discussing the world without being uncomfortable and the Finnish sauna culture with mixed saunas (naked, yes) were a non-issue.

Career-wise, I've spent my time testing, managing testing and managing in general. Again, gender was a non-issue. Reading the recent articles on how women are treated differently in collaboration reviews (being given feedback on personality traits) suggests I might have just been also partly blissfully ignorant but I feel I was again not treated differently from my male colleagues. The positive discrimination post-school isn't as strong and I have felt included.

This year in February I had my collaboration review with my manager, and I set a goal for myself to work more on programming. With that new year's resolution, I've started to learn why women might feel uncomfortable in tech and facing things that I have never had to see before.

When I identify as tester, I'm one of the team members with different skills (and personality). All testers get regularly mistreated, that's why over the years it's been such a big deal to be involved in a community of testers to share the experiences. People mostly just don't get testing. It's not a gender issue. It does not matter that I'm a woman to get to hear from a developer "I'm more valuable because I code" or "You are organizational cancer, the more you test the more there is to test". Both are quotes from the last 2,5 years. Any tester would get that from those developers. And majority of the developers are great, brilliant, most wonderful people I've ever had a chance of working with. I can easily cope with the negative and have learned the appropriate responses over the years - focus on the positive and create value together. That's what testers do.

When I started programming, the great, brilliant and most wonderful people are still as wonderful and helpful. They had no attitude problems with testers and their attitude remained positive with the change. But from ones that had problems before, I got to hear different negative remarks: "Women only add comments to the code", "I've seen women who code, but none of them are ever good at that".

For a person who was really comfortable with all the negative stuff as a tester, I was surprised how uncomfortable I am with the gender-based negative stuff I get as a programmer. I feel safe as tester, but very much unsafe whenever I'm a programmer. It could be that this is because I'm a junior programmer and senior tester, but I suspect that the first encounters of gender-based discrimination has been somewhat of a shock to me. Luckily, I really don't want to be a programmer - I just want to explore myself in doing programming for fun to better understand some aspects of software development I find intriguing. I'm not ready to fight for my place just for being a woman.