A Brief Exchange at Abstractions, or, a Reminder of How Far Our Culture Has Yet To Go

“So you want to be a developer?” I was asked on my second day of Abstractions, sitting in the front row waiting on a talk. It took me aback, at first, because I was surrounded by developers and thought I very much looked the part–jeans, t-shirt, backpack, pink hair. I look younger than I am, or so I’m always told, but certainly old enough to be out of college. The only difference between me and the person next to me, asking this question, is that genetics have left me very firmly feminine-coded.

Abstractions was my first multi-day conference as a developer–as someone working as a developer, being paid to write code that is consumed by thousands, if not millions, of people. “I am a developer,” I told that person, who I don’t think I’d be wrong to assume was a man.

But at a conference with a high (for tech) amount of women and with many women speaking, it was a reminder of how insulated one can get by the appearance of inclusion. This particular talk was code-heavy, focused on developers, with slides in simple Ruby that afterwards many people around me complained about not being able to understand.

I didn’t ask the man what he thought I was (a designer trying to bridge the gap? a student there to network?), in retrospect I wish I had. Or perhaps asked what other speakers he was going to see–if he had sat through Sandi Metz thinking she was less of a programmer than the men who would appear on that stage.

But, as my first multi-day conference as a working developer, at a conference that did so many things right for inclusion, it was a reminder that developer culture still has a long way to go.

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