High Heels in High Tech: Women Working in the Software Field

“Oh! You’re… a girl” said a remote member of a QA team I worked for out of college the first time I talked to them on the phone. “I didn’t expect that.”

It is something you get used to, working around computers- as do, I’m sure, women in other male-dominated fields.

“I walk in the door and everyone thinks I’m the secretary,” said one female programmer I know.  Another – a QA manager- kept threatening to bring in her degree and hang it on the wall to prove she belonged. I ‘ve shown up for interviews and had people say “actually, I’m waiting for an interviewee right now, but he isn’t here” and had to explain that I was, in fact, that interviewee.

If you have come from an office with more gender diversity, you may find yourself suddenly questioning the length of your skirt, feeling suddenly very aware of the sound of heels clicking on the office floor or wearing lots of turtlenecks. It is obvious you are in a different world here – the office is like a bachelors’ apartment (ok, honestly it is sometimes like a frat house). Some days you are one of the boys, and some days you get asked out three times by the same co-worker (who you refused each time). At first one of them tries explain to you how to work a mouse and a file menu, but eventually, they learn that you can match them in discussion about requirements and software behavior.

I’ve been lucky. In general, I’ve worked with really accepting and easy going guys- but regardless how great the guys are; being the only woman in your company is a unique experience. So this week I’m going to look at what it is like working as a woman in the tech field- whether you are the only woman or one of a few.

(Read the complete, published version of this article in TEST magazine here.)


2 responses to this post.

  1. I can relate to all you’ve written and it brings back floods of memories. I studied engineering at University where there were 7 women out of 100 students, so that was good practise for when I went to work at an R&D lab in country Australia as the only female engineer.

    I don’t think anyone dared speak to me for the first week, they were uncertain of how to approach me.

    It was so awful, I promised myself that I would wait it out for 30 days and if things didn’t improve I would leave! Fortunately they did and I had a great couple of years there.


  2. Hi Devon

    Interesting post. I would just like to say that as a test manager I seek diversity in my test group. If I would hire too many of the same background, with the same perspectives, same experiences, same gender I would eventually end up with a rotten team.

    I’ve worked with many good testers both men and women. Shame on those who act the way you mention above.



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