Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers via NPR

Over the past year we have highlighted many stories about the strides that women are making in various industries around the world. We also run a number of stories around technology, social media and more. In that field it seems that finding women are few and far between. Well in this story we see a woman who making her mark, Sarah Allen. She is the LONE female programmer on the team that developed Flash, the software that lets us stream so many videos we watch today. Hit the jump to hear more of her.

By Laura Sydell, via NPR

This story is part of our series, The Changing Lives of Women.

Sarah Allen has been the only woman on a team of computer programmers a few times in the more than two decades she has worked in the field. Most notably, she led the team — as the lone female programmer — that created Flash video, the dominant technology for streaming video on the Web.

Since only about 20 percent of all programmers are women, her experience isn’t uncommon, and now she’s trying to bring more women into the field.

A little over four years ago, Allen founded Blazing Cloud, which does design and development of software for mobile devices. The company’s mix of 10 programmers and designers work with entrepreneurs and help them take an idea and turn it into software that works.

Recently they met with Estee Solomon Gray, the founder of a company called Mmindd. Solomon Gray is trying to create a sort of next-generation calendar that better reflects people’s priorities. Allen and her team help Solomon Gray visualize what her software might look like. Allen will then help Solomon Gray design and build a product.

“Her vision is maybe two years out, and our task is: How do we come up with a thing that we might build in a few months that would get this started?” Allen says.

Allen’s experience as a programmer and developer is part of what got her this job, but Solomon Gray says Blazing Cloud also has a diverse team, and she didn’t find that elsewhere.

“I was really surprised by how many design — let alone development — firms had women as window dressing: one woman on the team, and it turns out she’s the salesperson,” Solomon Gray says. “After a few of those, I started to get really upset.”

Allen nods her head as she listens to Solomon Gray. She’s well aware that many firms claim they can’t find qualified women programmers. They say it’s hard because only about 20 percent of the profession is female. Allen, whose firm is made up equally of men and women, doesn’t buy it.

“If you’re interviewing people for your job, and you haven’t interviewed a woman, don’t hire until you’ve at least interviewed one woman. And if your recruiter can’t get you resumes that are diverse, find another recruiter,” she says.

When asked if she has ever experienced sexism, Allen doesn’t want to talk about it in those terms.

“I don’t think you can be a woman in our society and not experience sexism, so, sure, but that’s not the point,” she says.

Actually, Allen says, being a programmer has been a great career for her as a mom. Allen is married and has a 15-year-old son. “The women that I went to college with who are lawyers or doctors had a much harder time raising a family. They have to be there at certain times. I had an incredible amount of freedom, especially because I worked as a coder when I was a new mom and then I can work whenever I want, wherever I want,” she says.

Making Magic

Allen got interested in computers when she was 12. Her mom was one of the first women to sell the Apple II, and she brought one home. Allen read the manual and taught herself to write simple programs. She says it seemed like magic to her: “I could wave my hands, and I could create this pattern in the machine, and then this thing exists that didn’t exist before.”

Allen graduated from Brown University in 1990…[Read Full Article Here]

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