I feel like I relatively frequently get asked by students “What’s it like to exist as you?” or more precisely “How is it being a women in game development/ Girl Gamer/ Female programmer?” So just posting a general answer.
I understand where people are coming from when they ask but it’s such a strange question to expect to be able to extrapolate any information from that can be applied to another’s experience. As a women programmer, I often hesitate to talk about it publicly for fear of my single story being projected onto a whole population as the inquirers sample size is likely small. So this post comes with the disclaiming that this is just my experience, but I have come to realize that visibility matters and that it means I should talk about it more.
I was a tomboy growing up and didn’t have many friends who were girls, but once I got to college and there were only about 10 of us in a CS major of 200 total students, suddenly it felt like being a women was a massive amount to have in common with another human.
When I graduated and got a job, I didn’t have many gender related incidents when dealing with people in real life fortunately, stereotypical examples of microaggressions happened but nothing terrible. Eventually I got used to responding to “she” since who else could your co-workers be talking about, if you’re the only women in the room most of the time.
When I felt I had enough experience and free time I started mentoring and doing what I can to “change the ratio.” A lot of this came from the motivation that I really do think homogenous thought is artificial and makes worse teams. I take the two-fold approach:
1. Volunteering to instruct young girls to be interested in STEM. I highly recommend working with Girls Who Code. I’ve learned a lot working with teens and trying to make them feel a bit more guided through the rough intro process so hopefully they can have a bit of a head start and not feel so overwhelmed when starting college.
2. Trying to get my women co-workers talking more. Something as simple as an e-mail alias really demonstrates how the “right to assemble” helps to get people discuss ideas and help each other with any problems that might be encountered since it might be a shared experience.
Feel free to contact me if you are one of those people that do have more anecdotal questions… just don’t ask me “how to solve sexism” there are plenty of blog posts written by smarter people on steps towards that goal, it’s complicated and will require us all to work together.