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Where are the mediocre women?

me•di•o•cre: adj. Of moderate degree or quality; synonym: average

List the last 3 women that where senior engineers you worked with. Can you list them? Can you even get 3? It may be a while since those interactions, but it doesn’t matter. Think about them. If they have some years of experience, there is a good chance that they weren’t only good engineers, but amazing engineers.

I searched for the keywords “advice for female software engineers” and most of the advises always include things that are highly related with imposing yourself as someone that requires (and deserve) to be taken seriously. Things like calling out when you are not being taken seriously or not being afraid to ask for what you want or even how more important than confidence is having perseverance. On my quick search I couldn’t find a single advice article that actually said something about coding skills. I even got this ridiculous quote that I can’t even handle:

Get beyond the stereotyping and position yourself for a successful career in computer programming and engineering.

Yeah, sure. How did I not think that? 🙄

However, if you search for the same thing without the gender, you start getting some other advises like “Code. A lot.” or focus on one particular area of study.

So, by being a woman in tech is not only about coding. You have to handle everything that is hard in coding - debugging, architecture, frameworks, keeping up with technology - but this is not the hard part (and this IS hard). The hard part is being taken seriously, being heard and, sometimes, just being treated as a human being.

Even when you are able to overcome all the obstacles (horror stories) to survive in the first years of your career, you still suffer on more senior positions. You endure someone ignoring you in a meeting. You are asked if you are recruiter on a meetup. You are considered less senior in a technical discussion, even when nobody discussed levels. You get hit on a business meeting. You hear that women voices are annoying. You get pushed away from technical jobs because “women are naturally good at other stuff” [1].

Some, if not most, of the horror stories are harassment. And the problem with that is that no matter how good you are, no matter how much experience you have, it is an harassment and, thus, a violence. As being a violence, it hurts and it has a psychological cost.

har•ass: verb To subject (another) to hostile or prejudicial remarks or actions

So the result is that, those who survive long enough to become senior engineers are not mediocre. They HAVE to be badasses or they can’t survive. They can’t be anything else. There is no choice. And look: being mediocre is not bad. We were led to believe that it is, but it is not: it is being an average person. A person that is good in somethings and bad in others. A person that can evolve and be better with time, without being pushed away.

We don’t have to be mediocres, but we should have the option.

[1] This is just a few horrors stories that me or some of my friends have gone through. Ask any women, I am sure you’ll find plenty more.