March 8, 2016
By Sheena Melwani
I recount my conversation with Jessica Lim about what makes the Centre a great place for women in tech, since today we celebrate International Women’s Day. I was intrigued to hear about my fellow colleague’s perspective on women in technology and especially since she was the only female developer on Personal Health Information Technology (PHIT), the same team I am on, as a product manager.
Jessica has been with the centre since August 2015 and prior to this, she attended Bitmaker Labs. Jessica told me that when she was taking her web development course, she was only one of a few women. “It was noticeable,” she said. But the lead instructor of the course was female and Jessica felt inspired whenever there were guest speakers who were also female developers.
I asked her how she felt about the culture at the Centre, she said that it was very different from her experiences. At the Centre, she forgot that she was the only woman on the team! When I asked her why this was so, and what the Centre might already be doing to foster this culture of support for female developers. In response, she explained that so much diversity already exists at the Centre and so, it doesn’t feel like she is in a minority position.
It’s true. I look around the office and there are women in each type of role: female engineers, female product managers, female project managers, and female designers. Jessica suggests that if other organizations wanted to hire more female tech talent, then it would be important to showcase a comfortable environment for people of all genders and cultural backgrounds, which she feels the Centre is already promoting.
Outside of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, Jessica still feels some of the stigma that comes with being a female developer. For example, she told me that when she goes to tech meetups and workshops, others are often surprised that she is a full-stack developer because they assumed that she only did front-end.
But, Jessica is confident that this perception is changing. She co-organizes the meetup group Rails Girls TO with three other female developers and organizes events to foster growth and support for women in tech. As more girls enrol in CS coding camps, and organizations such as Ladies Learning Code (and hopefully places like the Centre that are focused on having a diverse workplace) expand their reach, it will no longer be unexpected that a woman’s skillset could be different from a man’s, and that’s something she is looking forward to.