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Female programmers this week

Updated on May 31, 2009

Been a fan of females since the beginning

As a developer who grew up during the time of .plan files and heated debates of OpenGL's superiority over Direct3D for games (Direct3D won), I've always remained in slight awe of the rare species named "female programmer" mainly due to one person: Corrinne Yu. For me, she served as a figure head during the 3D game revolution that occurred in the 1990s. During that period, I considered writing a software 3D render (still in vogue at the time), one of the most difficult things a programmer could do. So, reading about her 3D programming prowess cemented the thought that female programmers have just as much capability and potential as their male counterparts.

She also cemented my undying love for all Asian women. ;)

Anyway, as I traversed the Internet this week, I ran across three videos that in some way featured female programmers. I would like to share those, now:

  1. The first video comes from Microsoft's Channel 9 named Maoni Stephens and Andrew Pardoe: CLR 4 Garbage Collector - Inside Background GC and features Maoni Stephens, a programmer who helps develop Microsoft's .NET garbage collector. In the video, she walks us through Microsoft's new workstation Background GC in CLR version 4. I like to judge developers not only by their programming skills, but also by their communication skills and here, Maoni shows a rare ability to make garbage collection, a notoriously difficult subject that almost approaches the realm of magic, easy to understand. If only all women enjoyed writing on a white board this much. :) In any case, Maoni dispenses some very great information in this video, so I highly recommend it.
  2. The next video also comes from Channel 9 (no surprise, since Channel 9 runs a Women In Technology series, which I will touch on later) named Inside .NET 4: Meet the BCL Team and this time involves the Microsoft .NET base class libraries team. Although the men still out number the women in this video, the room does contain three women: one tester, one developer and one program manager. It sounds like the program manager, Melitta Andersen, works on the .NET date and time classes, so I'd love to sit down with her and ask about how she plans to address complaints that some people have in that area. The developer, named Kim Hamilton, like Corrinne Yu, represents the "fantasy" female developer: she can explain co-variance and contra-variance on a white board (and she used musical instruments during her explanation which resonates with me, being a drummer and clarinetist myself), she has an Effiel programming background and loves design by contract, speaks well and wears glasses (I find that hugely appealing). Amazing woman...would love to meet her.
  3. The final video does not come from Channel 9, but still sports a Microsoft interviewer. This video features four women (the fourth comes in later in the video), named Sara Goleman, Elizabeth M. Smith, Elizabeth Naramore and Ligaya Turmelle, whom participate at varying levels of activity in PHPWomen.org, a community dedicated to female PHP programmers. While these women discussed how they got into PHP programming and their experiences in the industry, I got the sense that elements from career history very much resembled my own. While I don't doubt that sexism and unfairness still exists in the corporate programming world, I did not hear any bitterness or jadedness in their voices. I only saw people...very interested in discussing technology and happy to share their experiences. One thing Elizabeth Naramore mentioned stuck with me: she said that PHPWomen.org doesn't seek to further separate women from the male programming counterparts, but to serve as a support group for women in the industry. As such, they also welcome men into the community, and have gotten very little negative feedback. I will definitely keep my eye on this community in the future.

Women in technology

The Microsoft presence in each of these videos didn't happen by accident. Channel 9 runs an entire series named Women in Technology where they interview all the amazing women in their company, from the vice presidents to the testers. I've seen many of these videos and I remained heartened that one day we will have a much better ratio of men to women in IT. We just need companies like Microsoft and others continuing to actively seek number (and quality!) parity between the genders.

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