Today's Coding Culture: Where do Women 'Fit In?'


Cover photo: Daily Hive

After headlines scorned Facebook for sourcing a predominately male coding cast, the conversation surrounding women in tech was sparked once again. Whether the Facebook leak is just the latest gossip or actually holds credibility, the speculation itself sparks some questions. Where do women stand in the coding world, and is there a field more conducive to gender-neutrality? Working behind a screen should eliminate gender disparities.

As with many roles in tech and computer science, the problem appears to exist in the infrastructure of societal stigmas around a women’s role in the workplace. Last year, this study found that women’s contributions to open source projects were more widely accepted than men’s, but only when they were not identifiable as women. Why are women still a minority in this industry?

The umbrella issue appears to be a result of company culture translating to a lack of female representation in physical roles. In her 15 years of experience as a developer, Hanh Nguyen, CEO of GlamOutfit, recognized that the lack of young women learning to code makes it difficult for companies to hire female engineers, even at a fashion tech company such as hers. “We constantly try to hire female engineers because they connect better with the product, but it has been really hard because the pool to hire is so small.”

Although a company may want to hire from within the female pool, it goes back to the dilemma of limited availability, as well as lack of experience. Sasha Tailor, software engineer at BlueMetal says, “Almost all of the female hires are for junior roles.”

Tailor comes from a technical background of working in predominantly male environments. During this time, she became aware of certain, societal factors that created these limits for women who code, “including a lack of female applicants in the pipeline,” agrees Tailor. This includes "the immediate need of filling a role versus taking the time to hunt for more diverse hires, for senior roles, and a lack of senior female programmers in current employees' networks (i.e. referrals).”

This lack of female leadership is built into modern society and constructs a broken culture within a company, and within the entire industry. “It is now up to the companies to take action,” says Veni Kunche, Senior Software Developer at Web Informatics and Mapping. “They need to stop hiring only computer science graduates and consider women with non-traditional backgrounds who went through a boot camp. They need to fix their technical interview process.”

Veni Kunche

Kunche points out that access to organizations that enable women in tech are more prevalent than ever, thus reflecting that while one issue around education is being solved, the larger problem that exists is the lack of education within companies. The developer with 14 years of experience in coding encourages companies “to look within and ask themselves why women may not be applying to their company or leaving their company. Are they looking for people at mostly male dominated events or communities? Is their culture so toxic that women and minorities are leaving and telling others not to apply? Are they forcing them to transition away from tech?”

Whatever the reasoning may be, Kunche enforces that it is not women’s job to fix this broken culture, placing the responsibility on the company’s themselves to take action. Women should, however, remain focused on building each other up, fighting their way to the top and fighting for what they want.

Kunche concludes, “With enough time and resources anyone can learn to code. Don't let society tell you what you can or cannot do because of your gender.”

3 Min Read

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.