Interview by: Audrey Pe
Written by: Nadia Vaillancourt
Instagram is often stereotyped as a cesspool of selfies and Starbucks photos, but some users are breaking the mold and using this platform for something else entirely. Female web developers and techies are sharing their experiences and tricks, offering a unique insight into the coding world whether you’re a programmer or just plain curious.
Marie-Philippe Gill, @girlknowstech on Instagram, is one of the biggest names in female tech blogging. Despite its humble beginnings as practice writing in her second language, French-speaking Marie’s blog Girls Know Tech is now a hub of tech tutorials, interviews, and articles on other women in the tech industry. She is a student in software engineering at École de Technologie Supérieure (ÉTS) in Montreal and balances her time between studying and managing her blog. According to Marie, although she enjoys numerous types of software engineering including mobile apps and enterprise resource planning (ERP), she’s yet to decide what to specialize in. “I haven’t [found] something that I’m passionate about just yet”, she says, “Except for my blog! I particularly enjoy the social media and marketing side of it.”
Aside from blogging, Marie is passionately involved with hackathons and other tech events. She is also a part of the student lab Dronolab, which creates drones that enter competitions in Canada and the US, as well as INGénieuses de l´ÉTS, a student group who encourage women to pursue STEM-related careers. The organization occupies a close place in Marie’s heart, as she hopes it will help inspire more women to forge a career in software engineering.
Marie is undoubtedly a strong advocate for women in tech. However, she isn’t convinced that her gender has played a significant role in her journey in tech. “I had only one incident [happen] to me”, she recounts. “In CEGEP, I had 20% more on a test than everyone in the class. … When the tests were [handed out] by the teacher to the class, everyone asked the teacher why I had a much better grade than everyone else. … My classmates were frustrated and felt that my grade was too high because my code was similar to theirs. The teacher said “Marie has a better grade because she’s a girl, yes.”” It’s important to remember that in order for women to be fully accepted as equals in the field of technology, we have to reduce all inequalities between the genders, even the ones that give us girls a leg up. Besides, girls being given patronizing grades does no one any favors. “But you know, the code was similar, but not exactly the same,” Marie tells us, “and my code was closer to the real answer than theirs.” Perhaps her grade was well deserved after all.
“In an ideal world, I’d like to see more men supporting and encouraging women to get interested in tech.”
When asked what improvements she would like to see in the world of tech, Marie responded “The first thing I would say is that I wish to see more women getting interested in STEM. In an ideal world, I’d like to see more men supporting and encouraging women to get interested in tech.” She also stresses that “Men also [need] to stop saying things like “you are beautiful for a programmer”. Being a woman AND a programmer doesn’t mean that we are ugly.” Only by combatting the casual objectification of women working in STEM can we ensure that both women are not harassed in their workplace and that they feel comfortable and empowered enough to contribute equally to STEM as their male co-workers.
As much as she strives to inspire girls everywhere to become involved with tech through her blog and social media, she too draws inspiration from a popular online lady: The Strive to Fit. Run by med student Jamie, The Strive to Fit brand stretches from a blog and a shop to an Instagram to two successful YouTube accounts. “I have no idea how she does it” says Marie, “but she is really inspiring to me!”
“Never let fear prevent you from doing the activities you want.”
Marie’s advice for women pursuing careers in technology is short but powerful: “Never let fear prevent you from doing the activities you want.” Admittedly, this is great advice for everyone, no matter their field, but for the many girls out there who don’t feel like they belong in STEM fields like software engineering, this advice is exponentially more important. “You need to get out of [your] comfort zone to get awesome opportunities. It sounds clichéd but we will never say it enough!” Marie continues. “You want to attend a tech meetup? You’re alone? GO ANYWAY! You want to attend a hackathon but you are scared because you don’t have a team or because you will be just a few girls? Goooooo! Say yes, and think after!” However, getting involved doesn’t start and end with attending events. “If you have time to study by yourself some programming languages and other things in tech that interests you, go for it!” Marie encourages. “It will help you tremendously when you will start to study tech in school.” Hopefully, her message reaches girls all over the world with ambitions of coding and engineering software and inspires them to be as fearless as they are clever.
Nadia Vaillancourt is a high school student at the British School Manila. Nadia hopes to help educate people about the experiences of women in STEM, and encourage all women to pursue their dreams to study or work in whatever field they want.
Photo credits: https://girlknowstech.com