I felt a little wistful as I thought over who to write about. I wished for a clear mentor or hero who I would have known about from childhood onward. Not many of us had that kind of computer science hero or even a childhood or teenage computer geek peer.
I admire the many women I know (or know of) who start organizations to give community and support to women programmers and geeks. People I admire from afar in Linuxchix: Val Anita Aurora for her excellent writing, Akkana Peck because I’m always stealing bits of her .bashrc file and I admire how she posts useful tidbits like that, Sulamita Garcia, Miriam Ruiz for being a developer also outspoken about sexism and misogyny. Desi from Devchix who not only is a leader in a great organization for women but who is such a good evangelist and teacher for Ruby on Rails (almost enough to tempt me away from Python and php). Angela Byron aka webchick who is so helpful and a great teacher for being involved with Drupal, too. All the women on linuxchix, ubuntuwomen, phpwomen, devchix, and Systers: you are my heroes!
Of other techy women I have worked with I would like to say a few things about women who either worked or learned from me. I look up to them too. Jasmine Davila, Olivia Given, Lark Baum all worked with me at the University of Chicago Lab Schools, doing web stuff, tech support on about 400 classroom and office Macs, twiddling with the servers, installing the physical wiring in tiny basement network closets and crawling through the ceilings wearing our headlamps, Flukes, and walkie talkies. They were so awesome. We all learned it on the fly, without any big attitude that we had to have a big attitude. We were not always pretending omniscience in a field where the range of things to know changes daily. We approached what we had to do as stuff to learn. That still inspires me a lot! I include in this category my mom, Karen Henry, who began asking me questions about the Internet in about 1994 and who ended up teaching classes on email, gopher, databases, and the early Web as a business and science reference librarian at the Houston Public Library.
Obviously I love and admire social media leaders and thinkers like Tara Hunt, all the women of She’s Geeky and BlogHer, but there are too many to list! All my co-workers, the bloggers on our site and in our network, all the social media experts and technophiles, I am honored to get to be part of these networks of thousands of women. And to all the relentlessly intelligent bloggers I know from blogging, feminism, and science fiction fandom like Tempest, Jen Cole and Aleja Ospina, Karen Healy (Girls Read Comics) and Robyn Fleming (Cerise and The Iris Gaming Network), Strata Chalup, SJ from I, Asshole, Sarah Dopp, and Debbie Notkin, thank you for putting your words out there.
For anyone who has ever sat down with me to hack on some code or who has made any sort of public technical blog post with code in it, I feel a deep sense of sisterhood and am very, very happy to know you. It is both sad and inspiring but every woman I have ever spoken to in person about coding, even the people I think of as light years ahead of me in knowledge and experience, has expressed feeling like they are not hackery enough to really “count”. As if in every thing we do has we have to prove our perfect technical competence for the honor of all womanhood. I try to fight this feeling in myself. Let’s keep fighting it and put more of our work out there even if it’s not “good enough” or done. And let’s keep supporting each other’s work and using peer mentoring and pair programming as much as we can!
(post for Ada Lovelace Day pledge organized by Suw Charman. Thanks Suw!)