Monday, January 5, 2015

Women in Tech & Men in Zumba

I have been a long time supporter of women in tech but today I realized how little I truly understand their situation.

Today my girlfriend brought me along to a Zumba Gold class. This is a easier version of zumba and often is frequented by older (60+) women. We were the youngest there by far.

I was the only man.

I'm a good dancer. Proficient in swing, salsa, cumbia & merengue which is basically what Zumba is. Youth is also an advantage in most physical activity. This should be very easy for me. Also, everyone was both very nice, complementary and welcoming. 

I was the only man.

I felt very uncomfortable. I would not have been there if not with my girlfriend and can't imagine going there by myself. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it. I wouldn't say that it was "my thing". I wish I could have turned invisible many times. But that was not the worst thing.

The worst thing was I had absolutely no idea what to do to make the situation more comfortable. Here I was, with all the self interest in the world to want to make things easier and no idea at all how to do it. 

I did gain some clear insight into what I did NOT want:
  • please, oh god please, do not single me out or call more attention to me
  • I felt very uncomfortable when people would come over to give me compliments
  • I did not enjoy the particularly extra girly dance moves
This makes me question some of the things I would do in regards to women in tech. Such as 
  • Make sure the women are recognized
  • Compliment women when they do good 
  • Anything remotely 'brogrammer' related (the mere thought of this now makes me cringe)

As uncomfortable as it was being the only man in zumba today, it was one day. It's not like it's my career... 

I can only imagine how many girls we lose the first few days of a programming class when they just feel like they don't fit in.