Who Says I Can‘t Code In Heels

Web & IT | By Fadzayi Chiwandire, Web Developer | 28 December 2016

It’s not a secret that the tech industry is male dominated and although it seems like more females are getting with the program, we still have a long way to go in order to strike a gender balance. And because of this, it is very difficult for the few women in the industry to maintain their femininity and stay true to themselves.

Right company, right culture
It is important to never underestimate the importance of company culture, and for a lot of women in tech the wrong company culture for us might make us feel like “we are not cut out for the job” or “not as good as the boys”. For instance, we all know majority of the companies have hackathon nights or require the developers to stay after hours and plugin to get most of the pieces of code done before the rest of the noisey office comes the following day, which fits perfectly well with the boys because a) they might be single so they really don’t have anything to rush home to, or b) if they are married, it is kind-of accepted for a man to be at the office for long periods of hours. For women however, this is very difficult especially ones with families because the expectations around a woman with a family are that of being a home-maker, “you have to make dinner, and put the kids to bed, and make sure the house is clean, layout the kid’s uniform for tomorrow and make sure their homework is signed etc” and the idea of a woman staying up late at the office is one that is still being frowned upon. A lot of women aren’t comfortable with this either.

So when it comes to culture, the question one needs to ask is, what does their culture say when it comes to such issues, will my colleagues and superiors frown if I have to walk out to attend to some mommy duties during a hackathon night?

In most cases, if you find yourself having to compromise more of yourself to keep the employer happy, then the company culture is not the right one for you.
You are who your friends are
I read a book by Robert Kiyosaki, Cashflow Quadrant, and in the last chapter of the book there was an exercise that instructed the reader to list six people they spend most of their time with, on the flip-side of that page, he mentioned that those six people are your future. Building a network of like-minded people is important in ensuring growth and also that you do not end up losing yourself in process.
It helps with accountability but helps with making the journey a lot less difficult, it really does get lonely out here.

Work with the boys, but don’t become a boy
One of the challenges is maintaining your femininity. I always ask, WHO SAYS I CAN‘T CODE IN HEELS? In an environment where one is a minority is easier to emulate the majority but the danger we fail to see in that is you become invisible, you become like everyone else in the room. I have witnessed some young girls who start off well, being themselves in their red bottoms and pencil skirts, but the boys in the room somehow manage to make them feel out of place and within a couple of weeks, they also start wearing the famous old t-shirt, some jeans and sneakers and within a year they are one of the boys. Nothing wrong if that is who you have always been, but everything is wrong with this picture if it is everything you are not.

Keep Learning
At the end of the day. It’s gender that really matters when it comes to slicing the cheese, it’s the skill, it’s what you know and what you are capable of that earns you that respect. It is vital to keep learning and to keep abreast of the latest trends in the industry. This will also boost your confidence and soon your peers will stop identifying you by gender but by skill.