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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Let's Face It: Men in Tech Lack a Few Things

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 7:56 AM

click to enlarge Crystal Martin, CoderGirl's program director. - ALLISON BABKA
  • Crystal Martin, CoderGirl's program director.

Last week, Google fired the engineer who distributed a memo claiming that women were genetically ill-suited for careers in key tech roles as engineers and developers. It’s probably the last thing that’s needed at this point, but let’s look at this from the point of view of ... another man.

As a man who works at an organization whose focus is preparing people for careers as software developers, I see the genetics of women in tech differently that the Google guy.

Every day at the office, I see a woman named Haley Shoaf who manages a remarkable array of technical education programs designed to provide on an accelerated basis skills that let people step into junior developer jobs. Haley does, in fact, have a genetic deficiency that drastically limits her ability to hear human speech at the specific frequency of men explaining to her that what she’s doing cannot be done.

On Wednesday nights, more than 140 women pile into LaunchCode’s Mentor Center for three hours to participate in a program called CoderGirl, through which women developers teach aspiring developers the technical skills they’ve used to build their own careers. Sure, the room on those evenings has a deep deficiency in Y chromosomes. But what it lacks in testosterone it more than makes up for with the absence of fisticuffs, misinformed braggadocio and Axe Body Spray. Mostly it’s just mutually supportive learning.

I’ve been in rooms of 100+ men for an evening, and usually by the 90-minute mark armed militias begin to form. Evolution seems to have cheated the women I see each week of this genetic asset.

You’d think a program that makes employable developers out of genetically inferior beings would, at minimum, be run by a man. I’ve watched Crystal Martin manage CoderGirl and grow it into a remarkable community over the past two years. But as part of my research for this piece, I asked Crystal the critical question and she informed me that she is, indeed, a woman. Also, obviously unaware of my male genetic superiority, she looked at me like I was an idiot.

Sarah Richardson, a software developer who creates and refines LaunchCode’s technical training curriculum, was unavailable for comment on women’s genetic tech deficiency for this piece. She was busy typing a string of characters into her computer in a language I was entirely unable to understand.

A persistent sound at LaunchCode is the even tone of Sally Steuterman’s voice as she puts her developer skills to use in interviewing aspiring developers. Sally doesn’t take gender into account. She says she is able to determine the comparative readiness of a candidate simply through assessment of the quality of the technical answers the candidate supplies. Such a crude measure of ability could only have been created by a woman.

Just one man’s opinion.

Jeff Mazur is the executive director of Launch Code, a not-for-profit that works with companies to set up paid apprenticeships in tech for people who lack traditional credentials.

The RFT welcomes concise essays on topics of local interest. Contact

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