Girls in Technology

In 2007, A List Apart conducted a Web Design Survey. They found that overall, women make up just 16.1% of the web design industry. That number was further broken down by job title. While as many as 41.6% of Writers/Editors were women just 7.2% of Developers were women. Overall, there’s a very definite bias toward fewer women being involved in the more technology-heavy types of positions.

The small number of women working in technology becomes a topic of discussion in the blogosphere every few months when conference attendees complain that all or nearly all of the presenters or speakers are male. It only makes sense that the speakers and presenters would be representative of the industry as a whole, so the problem is not that there’s a lack of female presenters and speakers, but a lack of women working in the field. Then everyone wonders why.

Male technology workers get interviewed about a great variety of subjects, but I’ve yet to hear an interview of a female technology worker where she wasn’t asked about why she thought there were no women in the field. I find that really frustrating – not only are her skills being ignored, but she’s being called to answer for her entire gender.

Recently at South by Southwest, I attended a panel titled “Attracting Girls to IT“. It was fascinating. Apparently in elementary school, interest in math, science and technology is about equal between genders, but by 5th grade, girls start to lose interest in these subjects. By high school, they’re barely interested, leaving just a tiny group of us geek girls.

I think that sometimes people like to think that sexual discrimination doesn’t happen all that often. But it does! We like to think that we’re a modern culture, and that things like gender don’t affect the subjects we like in school. But gender obviously plays a role. Parents, teachers, media, and others are all sending a message that math and science and technology are “boys’ subjects”. I know I got that message over and over again, sometimes in very subtle ways and sometimes in blatant, kick-you-in-the-gut-you’re-a-girl-and-you-don’t-belong-here kind of way. I think it takes a special kind of girl to stand up for herself through that and stick with what she really loves doing, no matter what the other students or the teacher think.

That kind of discrimination still happens in workplaces too. Some workplaces more than others, some coworkers more than others. I’ve experienced it. It’s awful, the feeling that your skills and knowledge and talent are somehow less valuable just because you’re a woman. Some days I can just ignore it and put my head down and get my work done, but other days I just feel defeated.

I’ve decided to become a volunteer mentor for girls interested in working in technology through MentorNet. Maybe I can keep one more girl from being turned away from her dream by the thoughtlessness of others. Maybe you can, too!

Shyness

I think that often shyness is greatly misunderstood. I am painfully shy, afraid to have attention focused on me, afraid to make a mistake.So often, others read this as snobbishness or disinterest. Even when this is so far from the truth.

I always knew and accepted that I was shy. It never occurred to me that it was neither normal nor desirable. I read some sort of etiquette book which said something along the lines of ‘If you are shy, you must do everything you can to overcome this terrible condition.’

Terrible condition? Really?


Image credit: THaeuSalRang

THaeuSalRang

 

What color is 5?

I’ve always had a distinct sense that the number 7 was green. A shiny, glossy green.

Number 8 is red. Nine is purple. Five is blue.

No rhyme or reason to it. No logical explanation. I think of the number 7, and in my head, I just know that it’s green. I never thought much about it.

Then I came across this article at Salon.com on synesthesia: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/01/15/synesthesia/index1.html

Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which activation of one sensory processing system (e.g., numbers or written language) leads to the automatic engagement of a second, distinct sensory processing system (e.g., color) to create a “crossed” sensory perception.

It was the first time I’d heard of synesthesia or knew that associating colors with numbers was all that unusual. Unlike the author of the Salon article, I never felt like a freak because of the color associations, and I never felt a need to close myself off from the color perceptions. I just accepted them.

Now, reading about this article, I wonder if synesthesia has affected my life in some way. I think that more than likely, my synesthesia is simply an indication of my sensitive nature. I remember in grade school when a bee would fly into our classroom through the open window, fear would clutch at my stomach. I was, and still am, irrationally afraid of bees. With a bee in the classroom, I could concentrate on nothing else. I would sit almost frozen in fear and look around at my classmates and the teacher only to realize that I was the only one who noticed the bee. I was nearly always the only one to notice.  I sat warily watching the bee fly in big, lazy circles, and wish that I wasn’t always the only one to notice these things.

Sensitivity makes life more difficult, but it’s also a blessing. Noticing the things no one else notices – taking action to fix them. Making other people’s lives a little bit better in ways they’d never think about themselves.

What the Universe Told Me About Dreams…

Today the universe emailed me to tell me about my dreams:

The Evolution of a Dream

Dream is implanted into brain.

Dreamer becomes thrilled.

Dreamer becomes terrified.

If no action is taken, terrifying thoughts grow into flesh-eating monsters. Dream is considered unrealistic.

If action is taken, terrifying thoughts are revealed to be paper tigers. Confidence soars, miracles unfold, and dreamer begins to saunter.

Either way, Natalie, nothing remains the same.

Yow,

The Universe

Wow. I barely know what to say.

Heart gifts

I think that often, we give gifts out of obligation or expectation. For a birthday, for Christmas, a housewarming, a wedding. So often, it seems that these are token gifts. The things that you give because you’re expected to give something.

I want to give more heart gifts. Gifts that really mean something. More than tokens. More than obligations. Gifts that express my appreciation, my love, my compassion, my warmth. I think that often heart gifts are gifts of ourselves. Our time, our energy, our attention, our talent. Things we have created with our hands, with our thoughts.

Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently put it in his essay, “Gifts”:

Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.

At bartleby.com you can read the entire essay.

Inspiration, incubation, procrastination

I think that a lot of people think that creativity is all about having fun. They process documents and total up spreadsheets and dream of just being able to paint or write or create all day long instead. As though it wasn’t “real” work.

Being creative is a lot of work! Of course it’s fun sometimes, but it’s hard work. And it’s odd work. I can’t tell you for sure if I’ll be able to design a web site in 10 hours. Sometimes inspiration strikes and it only takes 1 hour. Sometimes I sit and stare at my computer and struggle for days.

I always know a design will be good when I “see it in my head” and just copy it down. I don’t know where it comes from or how it happens. Sometimes the instant someone starts talking to me about their web site, I see it in my head, and feel inspired to rush home and create it before I lose it. Sometimes, it takes a long time to see it in my head. I’ll fidget with colors, move the elements around the page, play Tetris for awhile, come back to it, play with the colors again, move things around again…

I’ve always struggled with that fidgeting and playing stage. I never felt like I was doing “real” work. Then I found this article about Procrastination and Incubation. I’m so happy to learn that all that struggling and fidgeting is really part of the work, part of the process of being creative.

But I can also see how from the outside, it doesn’t look like work. So let me assure you, it is real work.

Another way to think about getting fit

I think that most of my life I’ve thought about weight loss as a fight – I had to be strong, had to work hard, had to overcome. I had to behave like it was a war, not just a battle.

But here’s the problem with that scenario: who’s the enemy I’m fighting against? Food that must be resisted at all costs? Exercises that must be conquered with gritted teeth and sweating brow? My own body that has to be beaten into shape against its will?

It’s not a pretty picture. And I don’t think a very healthy one.

So now I’m thinking in a different way. It’s not a war, it’s not a battle, it’s not a fight. It’s a journey. And food and exercise and my own body are my traveling companions, helping me to get where I want to be.

It’s not about facing down a pizza and winning or conquering a giant chocolate brownie. It’s about choosing to eat the apple instead because it’s a better ally and a better choice. It’s not about avoiding the things that are bad, but about making positive, healthful decisions.

And you know what? If I do eat a pizza or a chocolate brownie, I haven’t lost a battle. I’ve just stepped a few steps backward on my journey. I’ve traveled 1000 miles forward and took two steps backward. That’s hardly worth calling off the whole journey. So I’ll keep going.

Question everything

“Do not accept anything simply because it has been said by your teacher, or because it has been written in your sacred book, or because it has been believed by many, or because it has been handed down by your ancestors. Accept and live only according to what will enable you to see truth face to face.”

– Buddha, as quoted in *Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life* by Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s a very powerful idea, to feel that your own beliefs are your own choice. It can also be a very lonely idea if the things that speak to you and make your heart sing are different for you than for the people around you. It can be difficult to hold on to that thread of truth that makes you uniquely you when others are telling you that you’re wrong.

Sometimes I think that my loved ones feel I choose a different path simply to be different, to disagree, to defy. I don’t know how to make them understand that what makes their spirit soar and makes their lives bright and full and brings them peace and love simply does not speak to me. I have tried to be soft and open and learn, but it is not my truth, it is not where my heart lies, it is not my belief.

It is my sincerest wish that each and every person on earth finds the thing, whether it’s a religion, a practice, a hobby, a prayer, a belief or anything else that explains to them their purpose on Earth, lets them feel divine love, and brings them happiness. During this holiday season, may we make rooms in our hearts and our lives for those who hold different beliefs. May we still love and cherish their presence in our lives.Православни икони

Being Messy

I have great admiration for people who are messy and who show it. Sometimes they seem embarrassed or filled with regret. “Oh god, I’m such a mess!”

The biggest impression I seem to leave on people is that I’m someone who has it all together. That I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going and that my life is neat and orderly and calm.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m so incredibly messy. I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going and my life is anything but neat and orderly and calm. I wish that I could just be a mess and own it!

Life changes

In case you haven’t heard of it, tut.com offers a fabulous service called “Notes from the Universe.” Monday through Friday little bits of insight make their way to your email inbox. It’s almost frightening how right they can be, and how well-timed. I received this one recently:

When desirous of a life change, Natalie, or any kind of a change, it’s wiser to start from a place like: “I am who I am today, where I am today, because this was my choice and it has served me well. However, it no longer serves me, my choices have changed, and I give thanks for the amazing changes that now sweep through my amazing life.”

Rather than, “I don’t know how I got here. I hate this. I must be sabotaging my own progress. I just won’t accept things as they are any more. I’m desperate for a change. By this time next year my life will totally rock!”

OK?? You don’t even have to remember the choices that led you to the day, but by understanding you made them, the kingdom, the power, and the glory knowingly become yours.

Chic-a-boom,
The Universe

Nice little reminder of my own power.