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Module of the Month: This is not the module you’re looking for

In this 'Module of the Month', we look at an issue that is a little more important than modules. Let's leverage the capabilities and inputs of our entire team's ideas, opinions and approaches to solving complex problems.

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Closing the gender gap.

You are probably somewhat used to having your monthly shot of “ooh, that’s a nice module!”.
I’m sorry. This is far more important.

November 4th

On November 4th, I went to TEDxWellingtonWomen. And it was awesome. It was confronting, both the speeches and workshops. As well as a challenge to my "standard" view of the world. Even though I do my best to be a decent human being, it made me realize, I can and should do more.

Ninja Unicorns

I’ve been working in the Ninja Unicorns team for about a year now, but, you know what’s been special?

I’ve always been challenged by the team. As of February, Mikaela became a part of the Ninja Unicorns, together with Mojmir. And Mojmir took his time to get started, but he lined up with the way I think pretty much. What was so awesome was Mikaela thought differently than both of us. Adding a different perspective and approach made me question my own approaches.

Mojmir left the team (and joined SilverStripe again a few months later, but in Auckland instead of Wellington, where I’m based), so, Mikaela and I were short a teammate. This was soon filled by Jess who moved from another internal team here. I was now the minority in the development team and it has been great.

Some observations

There are a lot of things that are great about having diverse teams. Not only from a technical perspective as developers, but also towards clients. A thing that you may have encountered if you are in a diverse team, is that despite you or your colleagues being perfectly able to articulate suggested approaches, the client might still look for the one (male) developer to confirm it.

For example, I found that often I have to say

Like Jess/Mikaela said [Insert what they said here]

to have people agree with their view.

Which, to be honest, annoys the hell out of me. Considering it annoys me, I can not even start to understand how it must be for them. It must be a horrible experience to be ignored until someone that “fits the stereotype” confirms whatever has been said before, when I am no more or less qualified than them.

Why can’t people see that Jess’s opinion is as valid as Mikaela’s opinion or my opinion, which in turn is our team’s opinion? Why do I have to repeat it?! And I’m not talking about an all-male client panel, no, even a predominantly female client team, will consistently question whatever my teammates say, until I repeat it, as the implication is that as I am a man I must be leading the team and decision making.

And that pains me. The fact that these things are observable incidents in day to day life, means that there is a problem to solve here, and the value of my diverse team means I am now aware.

Just to give you a glimpse on how often it happens, have a look here, a timeline of sexist incidents. I know, it’s a scarily large list, and it’s only scratching the surface, but documenting this is a good start.

The greatness

A less diverse team often uses common, known approaches. Being in a team of people who come from different backgrounds who have different views, and especially not being the stereotype “white male developer”, made me better at what I do, and made me realise that there are more ways to approach a problem than my past experience has led me to believe. It has challenged me in every way I think about software development, and overwhelmingly for the better.

Sure, there is knowledge I have, that they don’t. But does that matter? They have knowledge I don’t have! I’ve been stunned by their creative way of thinking. Thinking differently and thinking in ways to solve a problem I would never have thought of. I will also share my experiences and knowledge with them so we all grow together, in breadth of knowledge.

I am doing everything I can to empower and help my teammates. I am very happy to have them as my teammates. They’re not only great developers, but also great humans. And I know I can learn a lot from them.

What’s the mention about TEDxWellingtonWomen?

I had the joy of watching Gretchen Carlson’s recording. Which was an eye opener to me. She is a well known journalist but was challenged because of her gender instead of her capabilities. If you are a women, you’ve probably heard it, probably seen it happen, or even worse, experienced it yourself.

Her speech stood out to me because the types of harassment she faced in her workplace. It is embarrassing to see how women are treated in the workplace, and the fact people treat women in this way is horrifying. I am very determined to do what I can in my own and others behaviour towards each other and women specifically, to make a safe and good place for all people, but in particular for women (developers).

As a start, understand that if you are in a privileged position, you can empower others. By asking the right questions, you can support your team.


Just see what you can do. I am doing everything I can for a unified, solid team, without making my teammates feel like they’re “less” than me. Thank you Jess, Mikaela, Carlos, Diana, Elise, Chris and Nicole. You help me realise how much it matters, and what I can do to help and improve.

I am extremely proud of, and thankful for all the people I work with on a daily basis. Thank you so much for helping me become a better person and I hope you will keep on helping me become better too.


About the author
Simon Erkelens

Simon is a developer at SilverStripe. When not at work, he's writing other programs or focusses on one of his modules he wrote or co-wrote. Or writing new things.

As a real backend developer, he's usually staring at a dark screen with code only. Although every now and then, he can be convinced to work on some frontend things or testing.

In real life, he looks nothing like the cow in his avatar, but he does love cows (both alive and medium rare)

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