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Where are all the female developers and why RailsGirls matters?

Have you ever thought that programming workshops targeted at females are awkward? That forcing women to program feels unnatural? Perhaps the reason that there aren't many women in IT is simple: maybe most women just aren’t that interested in it? After all, those who are passionate about programming will find a way inside, right?

I know where you’re coming from. It does feel unnatural and you’re rightfully puzzled. We shouldn’t be taking this approach and hopefully in the next decade we won’t have to. Hopefully these practices and programs won’t be necessary in their current shape and form. It’s unnatural that these initiatives need to be organised in the first place. And it’s unnatural that we need to attract women to programming. We have been living in a society that tells us which jobs are for women and which are for men. And that is unnatural.

We need to take unnatural steps in order to change the status quo because we live in a bizarre reality full of stereotypes. Just look at RailsGirls, Girls Who Code, Girl Develop it, or any other initiative targeted at gender equality — they are the tip of the iceberg. It may sound out of place in 2014, but women are rarely given a sincere chance to start their careers in programming early on.

From a guy’s perspective, this initial support is a non-issue. I mean, who’s blocking these women from moving forward? After all, we all learned to program on our own, didn’t we? Shouldn’t girls try just as hard? What's all the fuss about?

Ellen Chisa recently pointed out that for women in tech, excellence isn’t enough.

Even if a few women manage to squeak by being excellent, that’s not enough. We’re losing and hurting many excellent women. 

Think of your first Computer Science class in high school — how many girls can you actually recall being in the class? Let’s backtrack to before that even. Who’s getting Lego Technics for Christmas and who gets a Barbie doll house? He’s such a smart little guy, he’s going to be a scientist! And look at her, such a pretty little thing, such a true princess. Everyone has their own upbringing, development, and stories, but one commonality remains: society still thinks that each one of us has a role to play. And that role begins developing during our early years. Astronaut, fireman, explorer, soccer player, princess, actress, nurse. These stereotypes are what need to be changed. Only then will we, as a society, allow every girl and boy to be given the same chance to become whomever she or he wants to be.

We’ll get there. Looking at the social and cultural progress throughout the last century, I’m pretty certain that changes will come. Change is not instantaneous, however, but takes a generation or two. And before that happens, we need to hack the system. We need to integrate and inspire those that we lost before back into the pipeline. We need to attract women back to programming.

RailsGirls Wrocław takes place this weekend and we are proud to support it.

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