How to scare off female developers

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Recently Mark Jaquith tweeted:

Imagine if men talked like women with 'Golden Uterus Complex' do… 'Excuse me, but which one of us has a penis? That's what I thought.'

Mark Jaquith is one of the lead developers on WordPress.

I know developers of both sexes don’t have a reputation for being the most socially adept creatures. But would it hurt male developers like the aforementioned Mr. Jaquith to try to not piss female developers off by making sweeping and dismissive generalizations about us?

I feel Mr. Jaquith’s remarks are a symptom of a greater issue within the developer community, which until recently has been something of a boys-only affair. And I worry that this sort of open hostility to women, while not the norm, is certainly enough even in small doses to keep female would-be developers at bay.

Do you want to know why women stayed out of comics for so long? This attitude. I can attest to it. I lived through it in the comics biz, and I’m living through it again here in the web development world. It is the exact same shit only with different flies.

Women have a lot to offer both industries, and both industries constantly mewl and whine, “Where are all the women?” You want female comickers and developers. We make great presenters, fun coworkers, and we bring new perspectives. A gender-balanced community is a sane community. (And I’ll say what others are thinking: Isn’t it great to fall in love with someone who is passionate about the same things you are?)

It can be discouraging to women with weaker stomachs than mine. There’s a lot to… tolerate in this industry. I don’t like standing at the water cooler, pretending not to hear the “good old boys” next to me yucking it up at some poor woman’s expense. I am tired of shrugging and trying to move away when the Python developer next to me in the line for pizza starts railing about “why women have to get so angry when I try to hold the door for them.” I hate it when I’m at a conference or meetup, trying to talk to someone, and a man starts talking over me, completely hijacking the conversation.

But what can I do? I’m a minority here. Sometimes, I’m the only female who shows up at these events, the only one who comments on these blog posts. Do I just grin and bear it and wait for it to all get better? Somehow I don’t think that’s the best longterm strategy.

I want to make this a better place for women to work, a more welcoming environment. I desperately want more women coding next to me. So from now on, when I see this stuff going down, I am going to call you out on it. And I might not be pretty or friendly or sweet or nice while I’m doing it. I might not get popularity votes for telling it like it is. But someone has got to do it.


The many comments from developers below have convinced me that we can, as a community of developers, go one step further. Guys, it helps when you call each other out. If women are the only ones who take offense, we get written off as “sensitive” at best–harpies or “feminazis” at worst. That will really help make make this community a more welcoming and fun place to be for everyone.

Update 2: March 5th, 2012

Posted a follow up that features comics, a Twitter timeline, and a breakdown of the moral of the story.


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