Pull Quote: Do not put up with discrimination, talk about it openly, and stand against it.

Your Skills Speak Louder Than Your Gender

Photo of Sonja Jaakkola

Sonja Jaakkola

I don’t usually talk or even think about gender in relation to my career. I’m a female developer but I’ve never really felt like that is anything too special and more importantly I have rarely felt like my gender mattered.

As a kid I thought I would become an artist or a dancer. It wasn’t until I had to choose the university to apply to that I decided to go with something more practical so I went with Computer Science. I hadn’t really done much with code before that, except for having a Lord of the Rings discussion board with my friends and making doing some HTML & CSS related to that. After the first year of school I was already making my first WordPress sites to paying customers.

After graduating I have been a full-time employee in a developer position as well as a freelancer. I’ve worked both in Finland and in the USA. During my career I have actually been surprised how easy it has been for me, a woman in the male-dominated industry, to find work, to get promoted and to get recognition. I have not faced much discrimination or prejudice related to my gender, and the great professionals I have got to work with have always been interested in my skills beyond anything else.

So how come there is such a huge gender gap in the industry? I’ve witnessed it myself many times – being the only woman in a WordPress meetup of thirty people, or not having to queue at all to women’s bathroom in a tech conference with over 1000 attendees. There is no doubt that women are as capable as men, so whatever the reason is I really hope the future women would see the fun, problem-solving profession of a programmer as a great career option.

A few tips for an aspiring developer

I want to encourage everyone considering a developer career to take action and go for it. The tech industry is full of very clever and inspiring people and I promise you will not be bored. More importantly it is a safe career choice: the job market is great and the companies and the different tech communities are generally very open and welcoming. If you want to be a woman person in tech, remember:

  1. Do not accept gender any discrimination
    One great thing about being a developer is the current status of the job market. There is a lot more demand than there is supply, so you can choose who you work with. Do not put up with discrimination, talk about it openly and stand against it. I’ve been lucky enough not to face much judgement based on my gender. I’ve worked both in Finland and in the US and the biggest challenges I’ve faced have been clients that have been surprised that a woman is the tech lead in their project. Usually after a few hours of working together the prejudice disappears – it has always been enough to just be professional and stay true to myself.
  2. Be active and give back
    It is important to be active in your community and help other people out in their careers. Everyone benefits from a striving local community and also it is a great opportunity to make new connections and open new doors in your career.Being an organiser of WordCamp Finland & WordPress Helsinki meetup group for the last few years has really given me more than it has taken. I’ve learnt a lot and met many inspiring people, and it has opened up new career options for me too. The best thing tho has been just seeing the Finnish community grow so much and get more active by the day.
  3. It’s skills that matter
    This is really what it comes down to. Are you developing your skills constantly? Are you willing to keep up with the industry? You do not have to be the best developer, but you should be confident in your skills and be willing to always learn new ones. I believe that this is the only thing that matters in the end – not your gender.

Featured Partner: Gravity Forms

Build powerful forms, surveys, polls, quizzes and more with Gravity Forms for WordPress.

Visit Gravity Forms

2 comments

    • Sonja Jaakkola says:

      Thank you Nidhi for your kind words. Writing public texts is not my comfort zone, so I really appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *