When you think of women as makers, what comes to mind? Do you picture an artist? A knitter? A carpenter? A programmer? An engineer? A teacher?
Did you picture someone like me?
I have painted, knitted, built wooden furniture, written code, designed gadgets, and I’ve been teaching almost my entire life. But the one thing that ties all these roles together is that I am also a maker.
Most of the time I don’t think about the fact that I am a “woman maker”. I’m a maker who is also a woman, and in my case, a mom. It’s usually more important to me that I am also a teacher. I learn how things work and how to build them and fix them not just for myself, but also so I can teach anyone else who wants to know.
The one thing I am aware of as a woman is that I may also be a role model, especially for girls and women who don’t see themselves as “makers” because they aren’t in STEM fields, or for any other reason. If I see an opportunity to help a young woman realize that yes, she CAN design/build/program that thing she’s been dreaming about, then I will do all I can to make it happen.
I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve been in male-dominated fields for much of my life, and I’ve frequently been the only woman in the room or in the department. Most of the time that hasn’t seemed to make a difference in the way I’ve been treated, but those few times when it has made a difference stick out just that much more. (Hint: Never ask the new Linux instructor if she’s the new secretary. Especially if the department has never had a secretary.)
The type of place where I’ve almost never been treated differently as a woman is at a Maker Faire or makerspace. Every time I’ve been to one of these, I’ve found instant friendship, enthusiasm, and a generosity of knowledge. I’ve found people who want to open doors, not close them. I’ve found guides, not gatekeepers.
On this International Women’s Day, take a moment to salute a woman maker. Whether old, young, trans, cis, working in a STEM field or not, ALL of us women can be makers.