Back in 1999, Steve McConnell wrote After the Gold Rush which explained that tech companies want to hire “Pony Express Riders” – young, single men who like to work hard and play hard.
Sadly, I entered the profession after my Pony Express years. I was married, with a child. Sleeping under my desk was not an option. I was jealous of colleagues who could spend nights and weekends heads-down in code.
I did okay. Don’t cry for me, Argentina.
But now, many years later, we have the women-in-tech crisis.
Keep in mind, writing about women in tech is officially dangerous for a white man like me. Be gentle. As Charles Barkley says, we can’t have a conversation if one side is automatically wrong.
A (female) colleague recently pointed me to this article. Good read.
There is a famous (though I cannot find it on google at this moment) post from a male programmer who felt dis-enfranchised due to his tea-totaling.
Males in their 20s, including programmers, like to engage in what Festivus refers to as “feats of strength.” For programmers, this includes staying up all night, drinking recklessly with colleagues, and fixing more bugs than anyone could reasonably expect in a 24-hour period.
I’m guessing that some of these feats are not appealing to female programmers.
And yet, they are mostly appealing to management.
Programmers who stay up all night, intermittently working? Awesome! Heroic bug closure rate? Awesome! Alcoholism? Collateral damage.
I imagine that many female programmers do not want to be Pony Express riders. Neither do i! I want to work hard, and professionally, for my scheduled hours. And then I want to go home. Where I will sometimes do more work. And sometimes work on a side project. And sometimes chill with my family.
So… for the last 20 years, I have worked hard to carve out work environments that are convivial to me. Selfishly. The way Capitalism is supposed to work. And… they just so happen to be convivial to female programmers.
Pony Express riders exist. The get hired. You can’t wish them away. If 2 or more of them team up, you’ve got a culture. Or, at least, a clique.
Management will always love love them. But the Pony Express is not sustainable. The historical Pony Express collapsed after 2 years.
If you are not a Pony Express employee, seek companies that have been alive for more than 2 years, that have well-renowned word/life balance policies.
Above all, take advantage of the market inefficiencies. There are too-few programmers for the current marketplace. Make your choice count.