Networking with the local coding community when you're female
February 25, 2013 11:32 AM Subscribe
I'm really interested in learning to code (Python in particular), but my forays into the local community have been frustrating. Is this a typical experience for a woman? What can I do differently? Having this coding experience is crucial to getting where I want to go in my career.
posted by fantoche to Human Relations (24 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I started talking to an experienced (male) programmer through Twitter, and I asked if we could get together and chit chat about things. We had dinner and it turned out his experience wasn't really aligned with where I wanted to go, but we became friends (note: nothing untowards happening here, we're both married and we often go out as a foursome).
The same guy is a big proponent of getting more women into tech, so he's invited me to several local meetings. I finally took him up on that. I got there and it was all men except for me. The meeting was about deciding on a project using opensource data and collaboratively putting it together. The subject matter could not possibly have been more appropriate or interesting for me. Two of the men have essentially my dream jobs.
And yet ... I felt like a total weirdo. I'm not sure if this is a function of just being new to a group, or if my gender actually did come in to play. During the discussion, someone verbally gave out a URL. I didn't hear him and asked him twice to repeat it but I was ignored. I made a suggestion about the project that was ignored. After the discussion, the apparent leader of the group was polite and gave me his business card. I told him a little about my educational background and his first comment was that all the people he'd met with my degree were women. The rest of the group (about 10) did not approach me in any way. I knew one of them from school, and while he said hello, he was still standoffish.
The friend who'd invited me introduced me to the Dream Job guys, who kind of grunted in my direction. I asked them some questions about the project and got more grunts from one. My friend suggested I watch over the other Dream Job guy's shoulder while he wrote a Python script. After I told him I was a beginner, Dream Job Guy told me that he would dumb down his explanation but that I shouldn't be offended. To my shame, the explanation still wasn't dumb enough for me and I was too embarrassed to ask questions. I excused myself for a minute and when I came back he was in a conversation with my friend. Said friend had to leave shortly thereafter, and though the event lasted for several more hours, I opted to leave too.
I didn't see or hear any sexist or inappropriate behavior. These guys weren't brogrammers or neckbeards and didn't seem particularly socially inept with each other. I didn't fear harassment or sexual remarks as I'm not conventionally attractive, I'm androgynous-leaning and I'm 5-10 years older than most of them. I just felt invisible. I really don't want to have any more interaction with this group even though it would be very beneficial to me professionally.
I have not been able to find a group for women in my area, though I'm not really sure where to look. There might be one in a much bigger city in my region, but it's a 3-4 hour round trip and I doubt I could do that very often. I know there are Python books and courses online, and I plan to pursue those, but I really would like someone who can mentor me a bit and/or collaborate with me.
If this was actually just a typical experience for any newcomer to a programming group, please let me know. I do have a history of social anxiety and feeling like an outsider, and I've read so many blog posts about hostility towards women in the tech world that perhaps I am projecting a bit.
Holy wall of text. My actual questions: Was my experience likely due to my gender or my newcomer status? Should I give this group another try? If so, how can I approach it differently? If not, how can I find more friendly groups?