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A rarity

Some years ago, my sister who is a programmer, her friend Lourdes who is a programmer, a new co-worker of them and I were having lunch together. Suddenly he said something that was very funny to me.

– It is so weird… I´ve just realized that I´m having lunch with three programmer girls. Programmer girls. You all programmers.Who would have thought of it?  This is so out of this world!

We started at each other in awe.

– What? Do you think we are strange? Why? We are as normal as any of our female colleagues.

Then he proceeded to explain that, when he studied computer science in another country, Mexico, he had never met any female student enrolled in a computers related career. Thus programmer girls were a rarity for him.

Statistical facts

A rarity. At least where he studied and many other countries. But I dare to say that in our country it is quite normal.

Women can aspire to computers-related careers  just like women who aspire to become doctors or teachers.

When I was in high school I had a lot of girl friends who dreamt about studying a computer engineering career at Technological University of Panama (UTP). Studying there sounded so prestigious – (And in fact it is) – that it doesn´t surprise me that they liked to play with the idea, even if not all of them liked math a lot.

When studying at UTP, I could have dared to say that at least 33% in the pre-graduated classroom were females.  And all of them seemed very enthusiastic about this career.  I found a chart on internet showing the percentage of women studying computing back in 2000, but I don’t remember where I left it. It was near that number. It kinda had decreased a little bit some years later. (I promise I´ll post that graph when I find it, to make it more accurate )

Now, I found another about the percentage of women enrolled in post-graduate studies and they represent more tha 40%. So I guess those are good news!

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https://www.contraloria.gob.pa/inec/archivos/P4401511-49.pdf

However, after reading some articles on the internet, it seems that we might be unique compared to other countries… like USA? (see When Women Stopped Coding : Planet Money : NPR)

Girl Power Everywhere

Do my country have the secret to make computer science appealing to girls? Do statistics in USA only include women doing low level code stuff like what you do with C, C++, Java not taking in consideration more girl-friendly programming like Visual Basic, .net, Powerbuilder, etc.? Well… I don’t know.

But what I know is that during the time I´ve been working in this field I have met a lot of talented female colleagues, not only graduates from UTP, but also from National University of Panama and Latina University. Some of them are programmers, some of them are database analysts, some of them are more into technical support area and they all have in common one thing: they love what they do.


Any example? My sister Yan, her friends Lourdes, Elsa, Vielsa, Mari, Ivelisse; and friends and colleagues we’ve worked with for a while, like: Rosa, Zayu, Argeisa, Ilda, Manuela, Fragancia, Katherine, Marlenis, Bibiana, Ina, Dayra, Adilia, Mithzy, Indira, Ismeida, Vielka, Denise, Aidelen, Zayra, Roxana, Margoth, Audrey and Gaby. All of them got the IT’s Girl Power!!!!

What about your country? Are women in computing a rarity? Can you mention the ones you have worked with?

PSI: thanks everyone who encouraged me to republish this article here in Careers, because this space is more suitable than Coffee Corner 😉

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7 Comments

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  1. Sana Salam

    I can tell you from my experience that most women choose not to code/program, just because they prefer it that way. They would rather choose HR/Marketing related subjects.

    I think, women in tech have  a ton of opportunity and support once they start demonstrating their competency in the tech sector.

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  2. Steffi Warnecke

    Women in computing… are we such a rarity? How many do you know?

    Just connecting the existing thread with the blog, so everybody can see, that you already started a great discussion with this. 🙂

    I see and know of the gender gap in IT, but the funny thing is, that the last 4 developer additions to our department where all women! So either the gap is closing slowly but surely in Germany or we’re just an exception.

    I agree that a lot of it has to do with the support and chances you get in your teen years (or even earlier), when trying out different hobbies, interests etc. Next to technology, sports are another example where you tend to see the push of “that’s not a sport for boys/girls”. Or look at gender-specific toys.

    So I guess, as long as society has a certain opinion about what is the “the best suited” whatever for a person purely decided on gender instead on interest and talent, you’ll loose a lot of great future everything (no matter if man or woman).

    Lucky for me I was exposed to a lot of different things in my youth and there was never a comment or frown, when I was spending as much time with my toy cars as with dolls. Or when I was examining our first home computer in and out (as long as it kept running ^^). Or selected “Physics” as a major in school.

    And I don’t remember hearing ever a comment that I couldn’t do something because of my gender. Age, yes. Knowledge, of course. But never just because I happened to be a girl.

    Strange enough, when I started working in IT, it became a surprise to consultants and other IT staff I met, that I was part of the technical IT team. ^^ So I think the IT community itself seems to has to work on itself. 😀

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  3. REKHA D R

    Hello Erika,

    Very nice Blog . I am from India and I work  at SAP Germany as an ABAP developer.

    In India, it is not rare or uncommon to have female programmers in the team. When I used to work back in India, in my team there were 5 girls who used to code .

    I studied in a Women Engineering college, there were 160 girls in my batch studying Computers and Informatics Engineering. You find many girl program analysts, program developers , coders, technical support specialists in Indian IT multinationals. Of the total IT professionals, 30 % are female .

    Regards,

    Rekha

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  4. William Talbot

    Its my experience many corporations feel that programmers are some of the smartest people in the room. Often that respect is not given to a female until it is earned with on the job experience. As though a girls education and previous work experience is not enough, they need to earn it every where they go.

    My experience has also taught me that for that reason many females out perform males in similar roles.

    Its odd because at the academic level it seems the complete opposite – were people are viewed based on accomplishments regardless of their gender. I agree with the comment that at the post-graduate level the numbers are becoming more equal between males and females.

    When I entered grad school (Information Technology) the females out numbered the males 2 to 1. They set the pace and the tone and accomplished much more than their male counter parts. There was 3 of us that were published authors prior to earning our degrees, all of them females – from 3 different countries I would like to add – 

    People achieve and excel regardless of gender when the desire and most importantly opportunity is there for them to do so.

    Great post by the way – really enjoyed it –

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  5. Kaushik Debnath

    Male or Female everyone has freedom to choose. Now it depends what & all scenarios One is seeing in front of him/her. Generally what a girl can see that by taking that way maybe her friend/sister or it can be any of her known female person has taken a successful way & that is why she also tries to crawl into that career path. Among the females also some people are there who would love to chase for their childhood dream career path.

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