Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of women in the technology field. Rightfully so. In a world where technology has become the backbone of many societies, women should be involved in the creation and development of the innovations revolutionizing our security, healthcare and finances, be high up in the companies that distribute them and be part of the social media sites we faithfully log into every day.
Gradually, this is being called out and acted upon, in ways good and bad. Ellen Pao stands as a figurehead for the controversies surrounding the issue and last year’s GamerGate’s fiasco at SXSW showed passionate voices on both sides of the debate.
On the ground, there are smaller, but equally powerful movements dedicated to helping women and girls break into the tech scene. One of the individual spearheading her own project is Audrey Eschright, from Portland, Oregon. Eschright is the founder of The Recompiler, a self-described ‘feminist hacking’ magazine, dedicated to exploring and publishing issues of technology through works written by women. The Recompiler has gained traction as a young but promising magazine that, as New York Magazine says, “arrived just on time.”
Eschright granted Girls’ Globe an interview on her inspiration behind the magazine, and her advice for young girls and women in tech.
What’s your background?
I’ve been involved in the technology industry and open source for much of my career: working as a software developer, and organizing community events and resources such as user groups, conferences, and an open-source community calendar platform called Calagator.
You call The Recompiler a feminist magazine – would you consider yourself a feminist? That’s such a loaded word nowadays, can you define what it means to you?
I do consider myself a feminist, but I’m less interested in feminism as an identity, and more interested in feminism as a thing we do. For me, it means that I try to be informed about the issues that affect women, all women. I make decisions based on how I can help reduce inequality and oppression. And I try to ask the really big questions, like: what would it take for all people to be able to participate in building technology equally?
What’s the response been?
Overwhelmingly wonderful. Someone just tweeted at me today: “Technology for everyone is something I hear a lot, but The Recompiler actually means it”.
What do you think of the role of women in tech nowadays?
Under-representation is still an enormous challenge. I am so encouraged by the energy and desire to contribute I see from younger women—even as they’re aware of the things that aren’t easy.
But retention of experienced contributors is an enormous problem: you can read statistics about 40-50% of women dropping out in mid-career; it takes on a new level of urgency when you reach the point that you see this happening to your peers.
What’s has been your biggest personal challenge as a woman in tech?
I’ve been in so many situations where I felt un- or under-supported. It’s so hard to believe that it’s not about you, and that what you want or need is reasonable when you’re in that kind of environment. I have to stop myself from getting stuck thinking about what would be different if I hadn’t experienced that.
Any messages you have for women in the field?
If you like technology, you want to work with technology, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Practice, practice more, and find people who support you and share your interests.
Featured image: Daniel Dudek-Corrigan/Flickr, Creative Commons