For the past 30+ years, I've been gainfully and happily employed as a (female) software developer. My first decade was spent at a large space and defense company where equal gender distribution in software development, at all levels, was the norm, not the exception. My current company, Perfect Sense, also embraces women in software development. The case for a corporate culture where women technologists, in very large numbers, work successfully and seamlessly side by side with their male colleagues is not a theoretical one to me. It is my experience.
I've also been in a conference hall with 400 people and counted only 10 women in the room. Gender bias, like many other biases, is a real phenomenon - but it's not inevitable. In fact, I believe that software development is an excellent career to transcend bias and thrive regardless of any (hopefully temporary) disparity. Software instructions are translated to hardware as ones and zeros that are blissfully unaware of the gender, age, or race of the person who created them. The demand for a qualified person who can write those instructions has nearly always exceeded the supply. Most companies simply can't afford to let a good developer slip away.
In college I discovered that, unlike any other subject, I could spend hours engrossed in programming and be barely aware of time passing. When my work was complete, there was no mystery as to whether it would receive a good grade. It either worked or it didn't. I have always valued that objective success measurement.
There are many reasons why I believe software development is a great career - regardless whether you are male or female - but here are some reasons I believe it is a great choice, in particular, for women:
1. It's a profession you can fit into your life:
As long as you have a computer in your possession and are not trying to operate heavy machinery at the same time, you can write code. You don't even have to be on the internet. You can be effective working part-time, off-site, and at odd hours. You can work for a big company, small company, or your own company. If you are looking for clever ways to achieve work-life balance - with or without children in the mix - there are few careers as conducive to that goal as software development.
2. You can be as social as you want to be:
I've heard the argument that "women are social creatures and software development isn't social" as a reason why women are not pursuing careers in the field. Yes, computer science is a great pursuit for introverts since the act of coding is a solitary exercise. However, software development is an incredibly social enterprise. Software of complexity and magnitude requires teams of people working together. Moreover, if you hope to sell your software, you will probably want someone with social skills in the room. There are a lot of quiet people in the industry, to be sure. But you'll find those quiet people are sometimes the most interesting and funny people you've ever met. Software development is full of meetings, conversations, demonstrations, negotiations, stupid jokes, games, and sharing pictures. Also happy hours.
3. You can be as creative as you want to be:
I've also heard the argument that "women are too artsy and creative for software development". Remember when I said that I valued objective success measurement? In reality, it turns out that there is as much Art as there is Science in the application of Computer Science. Creativity is obvious where there is user interaction: the screens, the buttons, and the instructional videos. But there is also art and elegance to be found behind the curtain. Many people can write a program that performs a particular function. The "artists" among us write software that also performs well and is easy to maintain and extend. Even deciding what software to build in the first place requires creativity. You can tailor your career to the types of applications and development that interest you. It's hard to convey how satisfying, and fun, it is to watch your creation in action. Your options are as infinite as a blank piece of canvas.
4. You can be as successful as you want to be:
Until artificial intelligence really takes off - and, let's face it, the Terminator is not coming anytime soon - there is going to be a need for humans to develop software. If you remain skilled in current technologies, work hard, and are easy to get along with, there's a job out there for you - often a very lucrative job. Gender imposes no limits on the solutions you can create with your software. Want to solve world hunger? I'll bet someone right now is working on a program to figure out how to feed the world. If they aren't, then you'd better get started!
5. Because you can:
There's an immense sense of pride and accomplishment in doing something that (some) people think you can't. You get to prove their assumptions wrong, everyday, without arguments or protests. You just smile every time you answer the question "What do you do?"
At Perfect Sense, we work hard to ensure all developers are empowered to own projects and grow professionally. From our established mentorship program for junior developers to regularly identifying new leaders from our existing team, our female employees receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts to progress forward within their careers. Hiring talented women is the norm for us. We focus on recruiting the best talent with no filter on gender, race or nationality.
If you’re interested in working as a developer for Perfect Sense, you can apply for our open positions here.