Archive for July 27th, 2010

I (don’t) wanna be a cowboy, baby

I ran into a post this morning that seriously caught my attention. If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to be a Woman in technology, then I recommend you read what Nicole Sullivan has to say.

She talks about the difference between The Code Cowboy and The Good Developer. I know a lot of Code Cowboys and dealing with them is tiring. Of course, I can’t even put myself into the category of The Good Developer because, as Nicole pointed out, we are our own worst enemy. We aren’t good at judging our own abilities and we need encouragement. From my post on how Geeks drive girls out of Computer Science,

Girls are much more likely to try something if someone else encourages them to do it. I once sat in a group of female heads (principals) of boarding schools. Each woman talked about how it was that she decided to go after the Head of School job. Out of 8 Heads of School, only one of them admitted that she had wanted the job and pursued it. The other seven all talked about having a friend, coworker, or administrator who encouraged them to apply for the job. And every one of them was more than qualified for the position, but was timid about seeking it without some encouragement.

What I didn’t mention there was that with a panel of eight heads of school, there were only two people in the audience: myself and another woman. So we sat in a circle and just talked. It was great, but there should have been more women there.

The only thing that Nicole says with which I don’t agree, is that we need to make video games more appealing to girls. This is everyone’s first thought, and I don’t think it is the right direction.

Video games have changed a lot over the years. Many of them are much more social, which is the biggest hurdle to becoming popular with girls, however, they are still video games. I think video games are a complete waste of time. While The Code Cowboy is playing Wii Sports, I’m outside running or making social contacts while golfing. While The Code Cowboy is playing Online Scrabble, I’m having dinner and a beer at Quiz Night. While The Code Cowboy is playing Second Life, I’m working as the treasurer of my Home Owner’s Association board. While The Code Cowboy is playing World of Warcraft, I’m attending California High Speed Rail meetings. While The Code Cowboy is playing Farmville, I’m helping to build a home with Habitat for Humanity.

I don’t want to virtualize my world. I want to use computers to make my world better. Show me how to code so that I can model a malaria outbreak in a third world country and plan to distribute supplies accordingly. Teach me how to write an app that will show me the location of the cheapest gas or the lowest price for *gasp* a cute pair of shoes. I’d argue that girls want to become programmers to solve real world problems, not to write abstract games. I don’t think I know a single girl who would choose a job writing a video game over writing an app to help solve world hunger.

I had to mention the shoes because as geek girls, we are expected to not be interested in typical girl things. So I’ve been rebelling by acquiring shoes, and skirts, painting my toenails, doing my hair and makeup. I’m tired of having to look like one of the guys just to be treated as an equal. But then this runs into the problem Nicole mentioned that “No one is going to assume that a man is on stage because he looks good in a skirt.”