My wife is an amazing programmer, and much better than me #LikeAGirl

March 16, 2015 at 8:02 am 3 comments

The Always Super Bowl commercial “Like a Girl” was compelling (see video here).  When did “Like a Girl” become an insult?

The blog post linked below (thanks to Kate Harlan for this) offers several stories of female programmers presumed to be less-of-a-programmer because they’re females.  These are sad stories.

People are generally willing to believe that I can program, since I’m a white, male CS professor who has written programs in the past (e.g.,the original Swiki and Emile). In my family, we all know that Mom is the expert programmer. All three of our kids took AP CS, and they all asked Barb for help, with me only as a last resort.  When we were writing our books, I’d leave notes next to my searching or sorting examples in the LaTeX source for Barb, my co-author: “Yeah, I know that this isn’t quite right.  Can you fix it please?”  I wrote the first version of the Java class files for Media Computation and JES. Then Barb looked at them, tsk-tsk-ed a bit, and made them work well and made them readable.  My wife is an amazing programmer, far better than me #LikeAGirl.

I’m sure that Barbara has had people question her as a programmer, and more than they typically question my abilities as a programmer — while the real ability is the opposite.

One category of reactions that I receive all the time as a programmer that presents as feminine is: No one believes I am a programmer.

I can’t tell you how many people, when meeting me and hearing my profession, tell me that I look like a designer, someone in accounting, someone in marketing, anything but a programmer.

I have been a TA for weekend workshops that teach women to code. My male co-TA’s constantly asked me throughout the workshop how I was enjoying learning to program.

Apparently, presenting as feminine makes you look like a beginner. It is very frustrating that I will either look like not a programmer or look like a permanent beginner because I have programmed since age 8. I have basically always wanted to be a programmer. I received undergrad and grad degrees from MIT. I’ve worked as a visiting researcher in Honda’s humanoid robotics division on machine learning algorithms for ASIMO.

I don’t think that any of these things make me a better programmer; I list them because I am pretty sure that if I were a white man with these credentials or even less than these credentials no one would doubt my programmer status.

via Coding Like a Girl — Medium.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alfredtwo  |  March 16, 2015 at 8:25 am

    My wife used to be a professional programmer.She was also better than I was. She used to do this weird thing – planning I think she called it – that a lot of male programmers seem not to embrace.

  • 2. Bonnie  |  March 16, 2015 at 8:26 am

    “Like a girl” has always been an insult. It was an insult even when I was a kid. “Throw like a girl” has always meant that you throw a ball in a stupid clumsy way, “run like a girl” was what the track coaches told us to never do, and these days “like a girl” has also taken on a vaguely homephobic tinge too, at least among middle schoolers (I just had to listen to a crowd of middle school boys AND girls taunt each other with “You’re more of a girl than anyone” last evening at a party I was chaperoning). I suspect the kids in that video were coached, because by the time they are in elementary school, they KNOW that “like a girl” is an insult.

  • 3. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  March 16, 2015 at 9:50 am

    My favorite “throws like a girl” article of all is from 1996: I read it, paused in the middle to run his suggested experiment, and immediately realized just how correct was correct. He wrote a brief follow-up in 2007 An even better follow-up from 2011 uses slo-mo footage:


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