We got around 70 women (and 10 men) in a room for 3 days talking, learning and building. The result was not the product ideas, the stories generated or the visualizations built but the sense of fun, community and excitement. The chicas went away brimming with enthusiasm and overcome with determination. Although it was too early in the process to get them all coding (which I am wont to do), the key moment for me was when I was accosted in the ladies by a participant who said she wanted to be like me, to do what I do. We received gifts, we received thanks, we received praise. But what we really gained was a retort to the online threats against women.
This is Giannina Segnini. She is an investigative journalist at La Nacion Costa Rica. She has put two presidents in jail. She has been targeted and shot in her own home. She takes the government to court to get data. She works with designers and developers. She is tough as nails. If any web troll dared threaten her to her face, she would make his penis retract.
We work in what is considered a “man’s world”. We may be subject to unappetizing remarks, slimy trolls and inappropriate comments. But mostly we do our job, we do it well and we get respect. From men and women alike. Often men are fed up with the brogrammer mentality and want to work in the environments we help foster. I can say for myself, I have never been threatened or maligned on the web. My presence tends to be gender neutral and that’s more by my own choosing rather than fear of becoming a target.
Here I am at the launch of HacksHackers San Jose. The room was packed beyond capacity. I had 10 minutes so I got out my laptop, sat down on the stage and coded (HacksHackers divaChrys Wu held the mic when I typed). As Costa Rica is known for its bird life I made a web appfor tweeting out the songs of threatened, vulnerable and critically endangered birds in Costa Rica. All the code for it can be found in this GitHub repository.
As a woman whose presence online is just as important in forming my identity as my presence offline, I don’t feel I need a report button. I don’t necessarily believe that the most important thing for a woman getting online is to feel safe and secure but to feel included and empowered. That can sometimes be dangerous. So what I need is more Chicas Poderosas, more Girls Who Code, more <write/speak/code>. More women being of the web and not just on the web.