Thursday, May 9, 2013

Notion of Girl...

So this is my first post in a year. I took some time out from my professional activities so that I could focus on the new addition to our family. But my brain is reawakening now and I’m starting out with a bit of an introspective question. ‘Who am I?’ Does it change who I am now that that I am a working mum?

The question was fuelled not just by the change in my personal circumstances and also my imminent return to working life but an article by Caroline Drucker (@Bougie) in Wired (Feb 2013), which argues that females in IT are not doing themselves any favours at all by referring to themselves as ‘girls’ -  while it makes you approachable 'does it say you're here to do business?' She continues to say 
that if females working "in the sausage party that we call the tech world" want to be taken seriously, that we need to take ourselves more seriously.

I have gone by the handle ‘guigrrrl’ for a long time. The pseudonym was born from fun days working on a fun contract with “aichtemelboy’ (@stusteel). He was the UI developer and I was the UI designer. No one else in the business knew anything about UI stuff from the product director to the lead programmer and so we built up a bit of kudos by making the application sing and dance in a way it hadn’t before or had been envisaged. The girl suffix to GUI (and the boy suffix to HTML) was all a bit tongue-in-cheek but had some reverence to cartoon super-heroes like AstroBoy. I love GUI, I know GUI, I’m passionate about GUI and I do GUI. It’s my professional superpower. It’s a blend of design, psychology and computers – three things that I have always loved.

So all this has led me to question the notion of what it means to be girl. I am a mum of two and have worked in this industry for 15 years so clearly I am not a ‘girl’ any more. But is it demeaning or damaging to my career to adopt the characteristics or playfulness of what it means to be a girl? To be a girl means to be female, yet free of stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a woman. As soon as you stop being ‘girl’ and bcome ‘woman’ all sorts of other complications and expectations arise, not least of which include sex, physical, mental and professional ability, domesticity, behaviour, psychology etc. Drucker says that ‘girls are not threatening’ – so if I stop being a girl does that make me more threatening and is that a characteristic I want to be identified with? Not particularly – I want to be taken seriously, I want to be valued for my contribution and expertise, I want to be respected by my colleagues at all levels but do I have to stop being a ‘girl’ to achieve that?

Thoughts any alternative suggestions for a new non-girl handle appreciated :-0