First she highlighted the lack of women in leadership roles at corporations with her "lean in" philosophy. Now, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is pushing the term "wogrammer," a new concept in female empowerment. The year-old movement was founded by two engineers from Facebook, Erin Summers and Zainab Ghadiyali, and it's trying to do away with stereotypes in the field of programming. In a column in The Huffington Post explaining the idea, Ghadiyali wrote that the pair were frustrated with the way women in tech were portrayed in the media — when they were portrayed at all. Perfect hair and appearance aren't the only things women in tech should be known for, she wrote:
Would anyone mention a male CEO's family or hobbies in an article about his company? Do professional men get asked about work-life balance on a regular basis?
Since starting Wogrammer, the two have interviewed more than 50 female engineers around the world, and have provided a showcase for the varied work they've done. And now, Sandberg is throwing her formidable support behind the idea. In a Facebook (of course) post on Monday, Sandberg wrote that "you can’t be what you can’t see," and encouraged women to "post what you're proud of building" using the hashtag #wogrammer.
So far, the women highlighted on Wogrammer's website include Brina Lee, the first female programmer at Instagram, Preet Chaggar, who designs structures used to demilitarize chemical weapons, and Mary Lou Jepsen, who co-founded the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child.
In an interview with Motherboard, the Wogrammer founders said that they were trying to combat the stereotype of the "brogrammer"
— that is, the "alpha male bro who stays up all night and is hacking, and kind of this group of guys building amazing technology. The reality is there are women doing amazing things out there."
The Wogrammer team says that the focus shouldn't only be on women engineers and programmers' negative experiences in tech, but also on their accomplishments.
And yes, how tired must women in tech be of the endless profiles of the superwoman who has three kids and runs marathons and basically never sleeps. It's an impossible ideal for anyone to try to live up to. In that respect, Wogrammer's attempts to change the conversation are much-needed.
While it's definitely positive to highlight the many varied accomplishments of women in the tech field, it seems a little problematic for the Wogrammers to shift the conversation away from what they call the "horror stories" of women in tech. Much like Sandberg's Lean In philosophy, only addressing one part of the equation doesn't provide a solution to the problem.
These women on Wogrammer's wall of fame should be celebrated both because they're talented programmers and because they have handled the sexism that pervades the tech field. It's only by addressing the reality of the situation that any true progress will be made.