A blog entry for Ada Lovelace Day
Yesterday I was nearly exploding with the news that I’d had my first few PHP successes. Just small things, but it felt so satisfying to troubleshoot an issue and muddle through the fix. It took lots of websearching and reading, a brief convo with an IT tech at my hosting provider, and lots of trial and error. But it worked. Woot!
In general, lately, I’m finding huge satisfaction with acquiring new technical knowledge, much of which has come my way through my work in digital humanities. My capacity to learn new things seems to be increasing with each new step, and I’m intuitively becoming more capable at describing, managing, and troubleshooting technology. The thrill that accompanies each of these successes is not something I would have expected. How fun it is to learn–even as late as my 30s–that I like tech.
Along with my recent successes in the technical realm, I’ve been part of numerous discussions about the gender gap in technology-related fields. As a result, I’ve reflected on my own path in this direction. I can’t point to any one thing that steered me away from math and hard science, except my own deep belief that I wasn’t good in those areas. I felt no thrill when faced with a math problem. I merely endured Physics. The quantitative elements of Chemistry and Economics were my least favorite. It’s possible that I simply wasn’t good at any of those things when I was younger, and my stronger skills in writing and memorization steered me towards Biology and Journalism. Or it may be that I simply wasn’t validated for performing well in my Math or Science classes in the same way that I was when I did well in English. It’s hard to say.
But I think the real reason probably lies with being more often rewarded for what came easily (such as writing a story) and less often rewarded for what came hard (like a well-argued geometry proof). My own experience leads me to believe that my male peers often received praise that affirmed the skills needed to work through a difficult problem set, whereas us girls were not encouraged in that same way.
I also suspect that much of the reason I steered clear of math & science was that I wanted to be attractive to boys, and winning such attention meant more to me than the satisfaction of an elegant lab writeup. Although I typically dated the kind of boys who liked brainy girls, I still knew, deep-down, that the girls who were ‘too smart’ were far less likely to have a date on Friday night. My being raised Mormon particularly reinforced the notion that a ‘soft’ career choice was a better one, because the more important goal was to be a wife and a mother. Mormon women are strongly discouraged from full-time work, or even pursuing graduate study, unless it is after their children are grown.
I’m not sure yet where my growing passion for technology will take me, but as I move forward on this path it’s exciting to add new tools to my tech-kit and to find such satisfaction in problem-solving.