we need more minority devs.. in corner offices

You know what I’m tired of? Hearing this story. Programming used to be done by women. Men pushed them out. This happened last century and the trend has never reversed. I’m tired of it because its cyclical repetition in the news of the internet suggests to me that there are endless new waves of people who learn this for the first time and accept that as a reason: men decided women shouldn’t be computer programmers. I’m tired of it because I don’t see enough people asking how it was ever up to these n00bs to decide who was and was not allowed to program a computer, and why this was allowed to become anything more than a blip in our profession’s history and is now looked at with any more interest than the gambit of a gang of confidence men.

Lately I keep coming back to the same thought. It’s summed up nicely by Grace Hopper: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission,” and Roseanne Barr: “The thing women have yet to learn is that nobody gives you power. You just take it.”

The question of how the patriarchy came to be in charge of an industry that often seems to think of itself as so anarchic is pretty interesting to me. I mean, the answer is obvious: the patriarchy was paying the bills. It’s nepotism. It was in the patriarchy’s interest to give these good jobs, and the respect that accompanied them, back to the patriarchy. But I wonder why those of us outside the patriarchy just accepted that, and continue to accept that we must plead sweetly to the patriarchy running this shit to be allowed a place in this industry. Especially now, when I can’t see how the patriarchy’d be able to actually stop us.

I used to take a pretty dim view of developers maturing and moving into management. I’ve done a 180 on that recently. I now feel it’s absolutely necessary. I meet fewer developers than outsiders who remain convinced by the stereotype of the “traditional” (*cough*) developer, that the best programmer they can get will be one they will know by his nerdiness, his arrogance, his hostility, his whiteness. I meet almost no minorities in dev communities who buy into that. If we’re going to create workplaces and communities that accept that picture of a developer for the marketing scam it was, we need to create them for ourselves, and that means we can’t be dependent on people who still expect us to fit that stereotype or gtfo for jobs and legitimacy.

We’re real good about pulling together to try and get more diverse people into our field, but we suck at doing the things that keep them here. More and more, I feel like the core of that second part lies in recognition and having somewhere to advance to.

I don’t think it’s a popular idea (and I think about it a lot), but maybe the answer is that if we’re not allowed to advance simply through our work, if the existing institutions don’t want to remove the secret handshakes that keep minorities out (or keep them at code monkey status indefinitely), to create new ones of our own. Of course we wouldn’t have the legitimacy granted by patriarchy-endorsed participants who can expect more money and acclaim from existing institutions, we wouldn’t have the cash granted to mostly-”traditional” organizations that merely permit a small amount of recognition to trickle down to different kinds of developers by sponsors with that same demographic, but we’d sure be better off as actual developers. Someone has very explicitly created a system in which only a certain kind of person can succeed. I wonder why the hell we kill ourselves trying to be part of it instead of just creating a new system modeled on what predated the manufactured one: people doing their work with professionalism and care.

Aside from the whining on the internet such a thing might inspire (see reactions to women-only groups), there’s really nothing stopping us aside from the belief that endorsement by a patriarchal system that doesn’t appear to like us very much is actually a measure of success. We can throw our stuff on Github. We can start small without a lot of capital and build businesses slowly. We can go without free beer and pizza. We can continue to read blog posts and use open source and whatever else we need without having to acknowledge the celebrimeritocracy that decides which are correct. We can start fucking companies. We can experiment with new technologies and patterns. We can hire employees who will be pleasant to work with, not those we’re told we must suffer through working with in order to be The Best. We can say fuck being the best, let’s just make stuff and make it the best we can.

I don’t know what prevents us, aside from the fear that there is no us and everyone else is just going to continue playing by a flawed set of rules because that’s what the rules allow.

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