I don’t personally know a single female Ruby or Rails developer. The only one I’ve even heard of is Amy Hoy, and I didn’t really get a chance to talk to her at FOSCON, so it would be stretching things to say we’ve met.
I’m not talking about professional developers, even. I’m looking for anyone who has started a Rails app or played around with Ruby for a weekend or two. And I’m active with the local Ruby Brigade, I read other developers blogs, I search through lists of conference and event attendees.
Nothing. What’s going on here? Ruby is a rapidly growing field, as demonstrated by how quickly the conferences sell out, the number of new books released just in the last year, the number of businesses who know little about web development frameworks but are actively looking for Rails development because they heard it was good. This is an area where the interested developer can get in and have so many opportunities to do neat things. If there isn’t room for women here, then where?
Don’t take this to mean that I really think there are no other women in my field (even “the only female Ruby developer in Oregon” seems pretty drastic). But I don’t know where to find them. I’m sure that the number of developers in any area who are active in their local tech community is a small part of the total, and the number who become visible in a national or global arena, even online, is even smaller. Still, this suggests that women are such a small portion of the total field that by the time you filter down through these other criteria, they essentially disappear.
I think at least part of what I’m seeing is likely to occur in any part of the tech industry that hasn’t hit the corporate mainstream. This is an environment that weeds women out at all levels, to the point that the number who stick around long enough (or get involved deeply enough) to learn that there’s more out there than just Java or C++ is tiny, especially compared to those who enroll in beginning programming classes.
I’m very frustrated when I start to think about this too long, because I believe I belong here. And if I do, other women should be here too. Software is too big a part of modern life to let it be created by only one segment of the population.
[as a footnote, I stole the “where are the women” tag from Anne Zelenka, who has been using it on her blog and on del.icio.us to talk about women in blogging, the tech industry, etc.]