Monday, August 17, 2009

Women in Tech: Feeling like a Fraud

I have always been an avid supporter of women choosing to pursue technology degrees and careers. Through the summer program I used to direct, I encouraged young women to learn more about the technology we used, either on their own through their projects or by taking computer science classes or other types of classes. And many of them did further their knowledge. Some took graphics design courses. Some pursued computer science. Still others took internships that involved web or flash design and even ended up in first jobs that were heavily based on using technology.

So that's a success story. But I personally sometimes feel like a fraud for not being even more geeky than I am. Yes, I know HTML and CSS and can figure out my way around most programs and even a unix system. But I can't program and there are definite limits to my abilities. What I've focused on in the last few years has been the more philosophical aspects of our use of technology. How does it change our relationships, our schools, our government? And I can't help but feel that the true technowomen out there think this is not hard core enough. Every time I look at web sites for organizations that support women in technology fields, they're offering programming camps or money for your technology startup. And I feel left out. The irony!

I feel slightly less left out after reading this article on women who have leveraged technology in similar ways to my own. They are communicators, entrepreneurs, and policy wonks who have turned their love of technology into interesting careers that aren't about being system administrators or php programmers. Now I should say that most of the groups that support women who do want to be programmers and the like are not excluding those of us who want to bridge the relationship between what the programmers make and the people they make it for. But they're also not offering support for those of us who are technically savvy but haven't taken that next step to learn to program. Programming camp for dummies, maybe?

Then again, some of us may not want to program. I've tried to learn for years, but I get bored pretty quickly or frustrated or sometimes both. I think in part, this is because I don't want to learn for myself, but want to learn in order to establish more geek cred--a really bad reason to learn and obviously not very motivating. I'm just hoping the tent will widen instead of shrink.