What I’ve learned by being a woman in software engineering

A few months ago I had the great honour to speak at one of the Bristol Girl Geek Dinners events. The topic of my talk was : Women In Software engineering: The ugly, the bad and the good.

I ended up the session with this slide and I meant every word here.


Be proud of who you are

The frightening numbers show that the percentage of women in software engineering is no more than 20% which makes us a minority. Like any minority, we get the troubles of being a minority starting with everyday sexism to the gender gap in pay and career progression challenges.

So unless we are strong enough and proud of who we are , I don’t see how we can stand to fight and overcome all these challenges.

The discipline of software engineering does not require any male specific ‘parts’, and if you are working in software engineering , it is because you deserve it, you earned it. There is absolutely no need to apologize for being a woman or trying to blend in by acting like someone you are not.

Just be proud of who you are: Do you like wearing heels (like me) ? Do you like wearing lipstick? Or maybe you like jeans and trainers? It is fine and it is up to you.

Often when I go to geeky social events or meetups I get the question : Are you here with someone? Are you a partner ( as a man working in IT girlfriend or wife)? My answer is always the same : No! I am a woman and I write software. I’m an engineer, a woman who codes.

Studies show that the most diverse companies are the most successful ones. So Be proud of your diversity and your womanhood.

Speak up

“good fences make good neighbours”

Basically this means that you should set boundaries, boundaries for your best interest. A classic case is the “learn to say no” , say no to people and activities that do not help you progress or are not the most enjoyable tasks for you to do. You don’t have to be the person in charge of the old boring staff while your peers are learning cutting edge technology and working on challenging tasks.

Saying no is not easy especially for women , some explain it by the fact women want to be loved so we tend to please. Well, you know what? Let them love you for your NOs too.

It’s related to our need to blend in mentioned earlier, to show how ready we are to take all sort of responsibilities and do all kind of compromises for the job, because we are the women in tech who can do everything just like men. So we end up saying yes to almost everything and we end up with the boring no-one-wants-to-do tasks.

Sexist so called jokes? If you are a woman in software engineering(Nah! anyone really), I’m sure you heard one or million of these not just in meetings but everyday around the office.

Well the sexist so called jokes are not OK, sexism is not OK, everyday sexism is not OK. If you feel that you are being offended , speak up about it, let them know that it is not acceptable. Remember! Set the boundaries.

The ugly truth is everyday casual sexism in Tech industry is so common these days that people don’t notice anymore and they do it unconsciously most of the time. That is why it is important to talk about it to make sure it won’t happen again.

Your voice counts. We can’t achieve a global change unless we start by individual small steps. If everyone of us try to change her/his surrounding, her/his work conditions, we have a real opportunity to change things in the industry.

Don’t be intimidated

Men tend to interrupt women in meetings, brainstorming and other decision-making sessions. They interrupt women more than they do to other men which creates some sort of intimidation for us, women. As a result we tend to suppress our ideas, be less vocal, less expressive and more invisible. This phenomenon is known as MANterruption. How to deal with MANterruption? A fellow friend and woman in IT shared this article with me , it is a brilliant guide to deal with MANterruption whether you are a woman or a man.


 Work hard, challenge yourself

Maya Angelou loves “…to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”

Well, I love to see a young girl go out and grab technology by the lapels, break stereotypes and be a kicking ass , badass woman in software engineering.

Because success is not for the lazy, we need to work hard. Never underestimate your potential or keep yourself in the safety zone.

Challenge yourself, try new things and be ready for a probable failure.

It is important to be ready to fail otherwise our fear of failure would limit us to what we already know and we wouldn’t dare step up for new challenges.


Networking is a very powerful skill to accelerate and maintain success. It will help you through your career path and will also allow you to assist others. So don’t be shy, self-exclusion is very dangerous. Sign up for the user-groups that interest you and attend some after-work socials and conferences. It is all beneficial for you.

These are one of the most important things I’ve learned by being a woman in software engineering so far, I’m still learning new skills, new tricks and new ways to find my path as a woman in software engineering, every single day . It is challenging, which makes it fun and far from being boring.

If you are a woman in IT, engineering or any other discipline and you are reading those few thoughts, I would like to know what you have learnt 🙂

One thought on “What I’ve learned by being a woman in software engineering

  1. So inspiring and thoughtful words indeed ! Thank you Rabeb for sharing.
    I can definitely notice some of these things in my work environment, and as you have suggested the solutions, I can guarantee you it will really works. One word to summarize it all: “Never underestimate yourself!” By being very convinced with this, you’ll end up doing what you want and what you believe in.
    Keep up girl ! 😀


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