Stop encouraging girls to code for a living

Some people argue that women lack the intelligence, are too emotional, or don’t handle stress well enough to be engineers. That’s not what this is about.

There’s groups out there who are driven by the idea that we need to get more women in engineering in America. I don’t get why. Women should do whatever they want, but why specifically push them to engineering?

To start, women in engineering (in Coastal America) are paid less, especially at the start of their careers. Women in their early 20s can be paid as little as 50% of what their male counterparts are paid. There’s a lot of reasons for this. My former professor Miriam Posner wrote an insightful article in The Guardian about this issue. All the while, the pay gap is closing in other industries, and in some, women are making more than men.

Engineering teams are hit and miss. No one wants to start a job anticipating they will have to talk to HR. I’ve worked on great engineering teams with amazing energy and lots of laughs, but I’ve also found myself in a handful of uncomfortable situations that don’t happen in marketing.

To get paid more – you have to switch jobs. This is pretty standard for everyone who codes. But switching jobs comes with a lot of questions for girls.

What kind of career can you have when you’re not really quite sure if you’ll be accepted at your next team? Along with the risk of being paid less, passed on for promotions, and generally tokenized – it ain’t a fun ride.

Jobs that have been traditionally done by men – construction, lifting heavy objects, repetitive tasks – are all at risk of automation. Women’s work – traditionally more empathy-based and requiring softer skills – will rise in demand in the next 5-10 years and will not be automated for a while longer. It is important for women to focus on their soft skills, especially leadership, listening, and people management. These skills are important to every field, even technical ones. Learning a specific technical skill is not as helpful long-term as, say, learning how to effectively communicate about technical problems with non-technical listeners.

So my advice to other women is: do 👏 literally 👏 anything else other than engineering. Be a youtube beauty guru. Start a for-profit career counseling firm for high schoolers. Go to clown school. Be an instagram model. I believe groups and organizations that heavily promote females in engineering are doing more to hurt women than to help them.

Keep in mind – I started coding as a child for fun. I had no idea what I was getting into and my parents were thrilled I was teaching myself stuff. To be fair, I come from a country where STEM is not male-dominated. I did not grow up with negative self-perception about my gender and technical careers, and I still don’t have any. I love building stuff with code! But I don’t really wanna work in engineering in the US, and I think it’s a fair choice.

Yes, if you want to code, definitely do it, but if you want to code for work, be fully aware of the risk you are taking every single time you accept a new gig. Engineering teams can be very aggressive, 4chan-like boys clubs, or they can be welcoming and supportive learning environments! I don’t think we should sugar-coat the gamble.

8 Replies

  • If we don’t encourage women to code, every reason you state that women shouldn’t code will never change. It’s always hard for the change makers. But the benefit is that the more women that code, the less it will be a boys club, the more women will be promoted to hiring managers, the more the pay gap will close. Your argument that women shouldn’t go into engineering, because it’s hard, is exactly why there aren’t more women in engineering. You know what we tell boys, if it’s easy then you should push yourself. Why don’t we tell girls that too? Because you’re telling them to be Instagram models.

    • I’m not telling them to not do it because it is hard. Read the post again.

      It is setting yourself up for failure to enter a wrestling match where you have a very low probability of winning, especially when you can enter other matches where your chances are higher. Either way you’ll have to fight, but not why increase your chances, especially when the overall employment trends are moving away from specific technical work?

      I don’t care about change-makers and policies – that’s all political nonsense. I’m talking about real life – when someone makes a decision about their career – I sway them to make a smart decision not a politically-infused BS “empowerment” decision that will leave them worse off.

  • Stop Encouraging Black People Not To Work As A Slave

    These days anyone can head down to their local abolition office and fill out a 14320-Q form, and right then and there after as little as 30 minutes, they will no longer have to answer their old master’s commands. Sounds great, right?

    Not so fast.

    While that same afternoon they will no longer be a slave, they will now have to work for a living. The real world is real hit-and-miss. It’s possible to end up working at a racist place of employment. The Klan could target you. And you are far more likely to be incarcerated on trumped-up charges. None of this happens under your old master.

    My advice to other women is: do literally anything else other than engineering. Be a youtube beauty guru. Start a for-profit career counseling firm for high schoolers. Go to clown school. Be an instagram model.

    Oooops, I stopped rewriting it. That last paragraph was a direct quote from the article. Shameful!!!!!

    Software engineering is awesome. You have devices in your house that can more arithmetic in the next thirty minutes than every single accountant, physicist, an engineer since the dawn of time until the present day by hand, and that’s if you spend twenty-nine minutes of that time figuring out how to code it. Going the social route, you can put up a web page that by this time a week from now can be accessed by LITERALLY (I am not exaggerating) THREE BILLION PEOPLE, as long as you secure a memorable URL and ANY REASON for them to visit it.

    Don’t give up. Coding for a living is a billion times better than anything else you can do, and all it takes it brainpower. Computer don’t check your gender.

    Hide your gender online and go wild. Shameful article.

    • Hide my gender online? Why should I be ashamed of who I am? Should black people try to pass as white?

      And none of what I wrote is about coding for fun online. In fact, I stated that I still do. The problem is when you walk into a place of employment, it’s kind of hard to hide the fact that I am female.

      I find your correlation disgraceful.

      This is what you don’t get.

      I don’t view women’s work as lowly or slavery. I don’t think it is less. I think it is more, I think it is the future. You have such a limited view of the power of women’s intuition and creativity that you don’t realize it is that creativity that solves amazing problems, not the computing power our generation has access to. The computing power is just a tool – one that I use every day as a business person.

      Coding is cool, but pretty soon I’m going to have an AI bot build apps for me. The technical skill matters less than my creative skills.

      Which was my point.

      Thanks for reading.

  • Still, *something* ought to be done about the bro-tastic nature of the industry. I’m not normally big into separatism but perhaps at this point the ladies should go straight to the investors and start their own teams instead of trying to join what’s out there. A new wave of majority-female startups would be a nice seed for change.

    • I am also not a huge fan of separatism and I find well-balanced teams with a diversity of people are most effective and comfortable to be on. My professor Miriam Posner (mentioned above) actually warned me to never work on a team where I was the only female. Being a singular representative of an identity – even if you don’t think about it – causes undue stress. I think the big losers here are businesses.

      I just hate to see these young idealistic women taken like lambs to the slaughter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *