So yesterday was International Women’s Day, an annual celebration of all things female. I do see myself as a feminist, but I’m not one of the bra-burny types – I can’t afford to burn bras at £20 a go, I’m a student! Neither am I a fan of this day of celebration, however. Do we really need a day to celebrate our womanliness and promote gender equality, when we are struggling against misogynistic prejudice every single day? I don’t think we do.
The news has been filled recently with stories of courage and triumph in the face of adversity. From the annual SlutWalks held across the world to the fantastically brave and inspiring Malala Yousafzai being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, women are voicing their opinions and celebrating their femininity on a daily basis. We are constantly fighting for equal rights in our professional and personal lives. We fight for equal rights as a whole for the simple reason that both sexes are just that – equal. The only differences between women and men are biological, nothing else. Anyway, this isn’t a political blog so I’ll stop there before I get too carried away…
Now, for those of us in the field of computing, we accept that we still have a long way to go but we soldier on and see that things are gradually changing. When I encounter some old-fashioned man who thinks that computing isn’t “a very girly subject” (yep, someone actually said that to me once), I just smile, say nothing and get on with the job at hand, leaving them to squirm when they realise that yes, I do actually know what to do when presented with a Windows command prompt. Organisations such as LadyGeek in particularare a breath of fresh air for women; I particularly enjoyed their recent ICT School Takeover, where they visited several schools and showed female pupils the opportunities and empowerment to be had in choosing a career in computing. We need more events like these to get schoolgirls into computing, not some token day that most women I know don’t know or even care about.
I’m sure you’ll have come across Code.org‘s fantastic video, which has had over 9 million views in just two weeks. I watched the video when it was first released and wholly support its message, but what I really enjoyed was the inclusion of several women. Their stories are just what is needed to encourage more women to change their thinking, to show that computing is just as accessible to women as it is to the men. I recently met a professional who mentioned that although women are still very much in the minority, there is a certain amount of kudos to be had as a lady working in tech; I thought about it afterwards and realised that she’s right and it’s not a bad strength to play to either. I’m not saying that we should be showing more cleavage or anything when going for a job interview, more that we shouldn’t be afraid to keep our CVs androgynous so that potential employers will be more likely to invite us to interview if they think we’re a bloke.
In short, I think every day is our day. We need to focus less on token celebrations such as IWD and more on knuckling down and showing those sexist sods that we are just as capable as men. I spent the day playing Tomb Raider, loving the rebirth of Lara Croft as a normal woman playing on her strengths to get the job done instead of being a pouting pixellated sex symbol and thoroughly enjoying Rhianna Pratchett‘s utterly superb storyline. That’s what feminism is all about, ladies, and long may it continue!