This is an interview of Agnès Crepet, from the Java women’s group “Duchess” (by Delphine Lebédel).
- How did you get interested in computers and programming?
My family is definitely not a geek family (my mother is just starting in computing!), but I met some friends just before my twenties who were hooked on Linux. We started in the late 90’s to organize Linux Party with our collective named Avataria (http://www.avataria.org) with which we organize gigs as well. My friends were involved or working in the System Administration side, so I decided to discover the Programming side, perhaps to develop new skills in the team. I was then studying at university, so I decided to change my education way : I choose Computing instead of Natural Sciences!
And now, I work in the software engineering field, especially in the Java technologies, as Developer, Architect or Trainer. I have been using Java since 1999, implementing multiple kind of applications. I am currently starting a software company named Ninja Squad, with which we want to promote Software Craftsmanship and improve software development’s image in France!
- Can you explain a bit what Duchess is and why this group exists?
The “official” presentation of Duchess : “Duchess is a global network for connecting women in Java technology. Its mission is to promote women in this sector and to provide a platform through which women can connect with each other and get involved in the greater Java community.”
This group exists because I think it’s difficult for women to be visible in the Java community which is full of men 😉
If you are a woman and you want to get involved in a Java conference, for example, it might not be easy to take the microphone and be on stage in front of a men assembly who could see you as “a woman who speaks about Programing” and not only as “a programmer”! So in the Duchess network, we help each other in activities such as writing Technical articles or preparation of Technical Talks.
- How did you get involved in Duchess and what do you do there?
2 years ago, a friend (@cedric_exbrayat the Lyon JUG Leader) told me about the initiative. At first, without really knowing this network, I was not necessarily thrilled with the slightly communitarian side of the “girls that make Java”. But after reading the blog (I’ve read a lot of interesting technical articles), I also discovered some pathways of girls that I find interesting and unusual (girls who have chosen to be freelance, even with little experience for some of them!)
Then I saw a real motivation for this type of network … First of all, a real interest on the technical contents, but also an interest from the standpoint of women’s visibility in the software development world.
I thought it might be nice to launch a group in Lyon and I joined the Duchess France team Leaders in September 2010. And then, I started to be active on the Duchess Blog. For the last two years, I have been interviewing a lot of JUG speakers (one interview per month) for Duchess Blog about different topics like Java 7, Java & Performances, GlassFish & Application Versioning, Cloud Computing, Amazon Web Services, Clojure, Gradle, Git, Groovy, Websocket, Maven 3, AMQP, HornetQ, JMeter, Business Process Management, Behavior Driven Development, BackBone, Spring Batch , Hibernate OGM, …
And the story is not over … Last year, in 2011, after 10 years working in France, I’ve decided to take a sabbatical. I started a world trip (Africa, Asia, Oceania, USA…) not only to discover beautiful landscapes, but also to meet Java communities all over the world. During this trip, I helped some girls to launch two new Duchess groups in countries I’ve been spending time : Duchess Africa and Duchess Indonesia. For me it was a wonderful experience. I met some girls with awesome motivation and enthusiasm!
- In your opinion, why are there are so few women in free/open software?
I think there are so few women in the whole software field (free/open or proprietary software), specially on the technical side.
The first explanation may be linked to the women choices about education. Some prejudices are rooted in family and society and they influence the girl’s school choices. Parents and teachers
often discourage them from too technical ways where women’s presence is not yet fully accepted.
And some technical trades, such as computing, suffers from certain stereotypes. The developer is often depicted as a man, young, white, heterosexual, heroic-fantasy fan or video games addict. These worlds are also often filled with references mainly male where female have no place. When women are represented, they are often so degraded or humiliated. I remember a recent advertisement for the release of a version of Ubuntu (a Linux distribution): a pair of female buttocks perfectly calibrated with an Ubuntu underpants. But you can tell me that we find such representations whatever the product is (car, household product, custard, etc..)!
- What are your ideas to increase the number of women?
I think that we have to increase the visibility of women in the community, in the aim to encourage the young ones to choose a developer job. I believe that women who work in computing have to write articles in the press, or to be speakers in conferences, still to be more visible! This a mission of the Duchess network : to help and push women to be more confident and then to dare to be on stage!
I teach computer science at University or Engineer Schools. Classes are for several years almost exclusively male. I want to show to the young students and high school students that the software development is not an occupation restricted to men.