#BreakTheBias with Sonja Jónsdóttir — Frontend Developer

We asked the women of Lucinity to share their thoughts and perspectives, for International Women’s Day 2022, on gender equality and inclusiveness.

Sonja Jónsdóttir, Frontend Developer @ Lucinity

Sonja Jónsdóttir

Sonja, a frontend developer working on Lucinity’s Case and SAR Managers and other operations-focused interfaces, underlines the importance of establishing inclusivity early. 

Back in 2012, I remember going to the open day at Reykjavik University and seeing presentations for all the departments, nothing sparked my interest until I saw the one for the Computer Science department,” she says. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, the idea of being able to make whatever you want through programming sounds incredible, but no way is that something that I can do.’ Because the presenters for the department were two [geeky] guys that looked overwhelmingly smart. Being a girl who had zero background in programming, I felt that I had no place in Computer Science since I did not identify myself with the representatives for the department.” 

Sonja also touches on the impact parents have on their children. “My mom, a mighty „kvenskörungur“ (the Icelandic word for a strong female that does not succumb to adversity), asked me if I could pick anything in the world to study what it would be. I answered „Computer Science“ while looking into my lap, ashamed of my answer. She asked me why in the world I felt like that was something I couldn‘t do and dared me to try it out, which I did and have no regrets doing.” 

Raising children, of any gender, is a responsibility in providing opportunities and not passing on our own bias. And Sonja points out that such a responsibility to promote inclusivity, whether from parents or teachers or peers, cannot be a passive influence. “Representation matters. It is important to be inclusive in our educational system as well as workplaces. To work hard towards diversity and be purposeful in your actions. You have to do it actively, not passively. Don‘t make excuses, don‘t wait for a more suitable time, no more ‘next time we will..’ and most importantly don‘t think that this will happen on its own.” 

Sonja also points to another often-overlooked aspect of inclusivity: language. “Language is a powerful thing, what we say and how we say things has meaning. Time and time again, women feel excluded from the group by the words used at the workplace.” She explains: “I think this is very common in male-dominated workplaces, which most of the tech industry is. In English, the most common phrase used is probably  „guys“; „hey guys“ or „yeah the backend guys will take care of that“ etc. In Icelandic, words are gendered; for every word, you have three versions of it: masculine, feminine and neutral. Most of the time, when talking to or about a group of people, the masculine word is picked; „Allir“ (everybody, masculine), „þeir“ (they, masculine), and even „strákarnir“ (the guys).” 

Just as with the seatbelts (see here), the problems of language are sneaky, hidden-away biases that create challenges unseen and hard to overcome. “This problem of language is very subtle, and it is all in the nuances. Hearing those words once or twice will probably not affect you, but over time, hearing this every other day will start to affect you. You feel annoyed, left out, and dismissed. In Icelandic, we say that „dropinn holar steininn“ (e. Constant dripping of water wears away the stone) which captures this quite well,” says Sonja. 

In response to this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Break the Bias, Sonja picks this subtle but important aspect of inclusivity. “How we speak is what I would like to break for women. Feeling like you are a part of the group and that you have a place in it will enable women to feel better in the workplace, feel like they have the right to express themselves, and feel like an equal. This is important because nobody wants to stay in a place where they don‘t feel they belong.” 

Hear from more women 

This portrait of Sonja comes as part of a series for International Women’s Day 2022. To read from more women in Lucinity sharing their thoughts on gender equality, see my introduction.

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