Treefort 2015, Hackfort2: "Don't Take Away the Keyboard" from Women

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(L-R) Panelists: Mariella Paulino, Marianna Bundinkova, moderator Lauren McLean, Shannon Turner and Kelsey Suyehira. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • (L-R) Panelists: Mariella Paulino, Marianna Bundinkova, moderator Lauren McLean, Shannon Turner and Kelsey Suyehira.

Professional hacker Marianna Budnikova said she gets really sick of men "taking away the keyboard" when she's trying to solve a coding problem. In a panel titled "Diversity Pipeline" held at Hackfort2 in the Owyhee, she told a full room that many times, men through her schooling, her work and her home often take the keyboard from her to try to bring her idea into fruition. 

"Don't take away the keyboard," she said to an audience made up of 75 percent men. 

The panel, which took place March 26 and was moderated by Boise City Councilwoman Lauren McLean, involved four women pioneering the tech field—Mariella Paulino of Code for Progress, Bundinkova of MetaGeek, Shannon Turner of Washington, D.C.-based Hear Me Code, and Boise State University computer science student Kelsey Suyehira.

The women all shared similar experiences on what it's like to be one of the only women in the room—whether it's in computer programming classes, conferences or workplaces.

Paulino called the tech industry a place full of "brogrammers." A software engineer originally born in the Dominican Republic, Paulino lost her hearing at a young age. During the panel, she used an app that lets someone in another state listen to the conversation in the room and transcribe it for her with only a second's delay. With it, she didn't need an interpreter—instead, she casually looked down at her smartphone every once in awhile.



Turner told the room that the tech industry "will be stronger when women are at the table."

That started a question/answer session with the audience where many Hackforters asked a similar question: how do we, as men, get women into the tech field?

"Hire them," Paulino said. "If you want to hire more women, then hire them."

She recommended investing in female employees, and helping them pay for training. She pointed out that the cost of coding education is a an incredible barrier of entry into the field. 

Mariella Paulino lost her hearing at a young age, and relies on a smartphone app to listen to the conversation in the room rather than needing an interpreter. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Mariella Paulino lost her hearing at a young age, and relies on a smartphone app to listen to the conversation in the room rather than needing an interpreter.
The panelists also talked about how to make work environments more friendly towards women, like recognizing they are less likely to speak up or talk over their colleagues, but should still have their ideas heard. Turner pointed out that benefits and compensation should be equal to what men make. 

They pushed the importance of getting girls involved in technology at a young age. They want to show more young women that coding doesn't mean sitting in a dark basement wearing a hoodie and isolating oneself from the rest of the world. 

"Learning to code will help you in any profession that you do," Paulino said. 

"We want to show women how broad the field can be," Suyehira added.

Turner was especially adamant about the importance of women in the tech field, and what it means for the men already there.

"No one has to step out for us to step in," she said. "Men can bring more women in intentionally and understand the value of women. I look forward to the day when it's a non-issue, but we are so far from that."

Once the panel ended, the room filled with the sound of chatter while attendees digested the information. Will Foster, a software developer from Hackfort2 sponsor White Cloud Analytics, struggled to find the panelists' advice useful in his own job. 

He said over the past four years he has been with the company, the firm hasn't received many female applicants. 

"It's not a hiring issue," Foster said. "It's a problem in the pool of possible hires, and I would love to see that problem solved."

He said his company chooses people based on talent, "not just because they're a woman." And he pointed out that the small company doesn't have the time or the money to invest in training someone. They need their new employees to be able to hit the ground running.

As far as how to attract qualified women applicants, he said "hell, I don't know."