Ilia Kuzmina, fourth year at the Department of Software Engineering, Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics of St. Petersburg State University

I really liked math when I was still in elementary school, and when I was nine I was already studying in the math section of the Presidential Physical and Mathematical Lyceum #239 in St. Petersburg. Thanks to my teachers, I received great groundwork in exact sciences. They've taught me to use a creative approach when solving tasks, be persistent and enjoy competition. Many renowned mathematicians learned here, and in the recent years, its graduates are known as world's strongest programmers. During my seventh year, I got into a programming club, as I wanted to know more about my mother's profession. There, I came to like contests in programming. I successfully participated in individual and team competitions, and then I got interested in software development and systems programming; I also got relevant experience during internships in Google.

Ilia Kuzmina

There are really more male programmers than female ones, but I am used to it since childhood, as in my class in elementary school there were more boys than girls. Still, during the recent years, western companies promote the idea that there must be equal amount of female and male specialists in technical professions, so now there are many opportunities for women in IT. Google annually conducts a contest for the Anita Borg fellowship for female students studying IT and its adjacent fields, as well as Google Code Jam for Women — its winners are invited to take part in Google I/O, the largest conference on IT.

As of now, I have only experienced working in foreign companies whose corporate policies are strictly against discrimination. Yet, when talking to some novice male programmers in private, I sometimes hear the opinion that women should only be housewives. Not to say anything bad about these people, I'd like to note that I never heard anything like that from highly qualified accomplished specialists.

Anna Kopeliovich, second year at the Computer Technology Department of ITMO University

I decided to take up programming, as I got interested in new algorithms and data structures used for solving tasks in different contests. This got me interested in programming as a whole. I never minded that there were more guys doing it, I feel great among them. Most of my male friends are programmers, as well. Back in school, we only started learning algorithms together, and now we all study in our country's best IT universities. I study at ITMO University, and we are very close with my peers. They are not geeks or nerds who only focus on studying, but people with many interests: theater, music, museums… Surely, there are jokes about girls who became programmers only to find a husband, but I've never faced any gender discrimination. To sum up, even though there are few girls that do programming, studying it is really comfortable and fun.

Anna Kopeliovich

Olga Chernikova, third year at Department of Mathematics and Information Technology of SPbAU RAS

As I grew up, my wish to become a programmer grew as well. Up to my eighth school year, I studied at a care facility where math was weak and no-one taught programming. Yet, I was good at studying, and so transferred to a school with advanced math. There, I got an opportunity to study programming: one could choose it as an optional program. So, I decided to try it, for no reason, really. I did not think much of it — then, I didn't even know how to type, and had to search for a while before finding the key I needed.

Olga Chernikova

I wasn't really good at programming, and the course wasn't really intensive; now I think that if it was, I wouldn't have done it. Then, I fell in love with my classmate who also only started programming. And after going to a summer school on it, I became absolutely sure that this will be what I'll be doing. This way, something accidental and unimportant became the most significant thing for me.

Personally, I feel fine being among male programmers. There are so many of them in my life so that I start to forget that there are guys who don't code. I've been doing programming for more than six years already, and I'm used to the fact that there are five male programmers per every female one. Now I’ve started bioinformatics, and there are a lot more girls in this field, almost as many as guys! I still can't get used to it.

There are not many people who do programming, most know each other, and judge others not by gender, but by what's he or she is capable of. Sometimes, I'm not even perceived as a girl, and that results in funny situations, as when someone says: "Great! You've optimized this! Like real men! Yes, Olga, you're a man too… No, I meant it in a good way…". Or "When you write this, you shouldn't think like "I am a girl, I don't want to think of anything, I want it to look nice…", sorry Olga, I didn't mean you". And I remember one more phrase about me being a girl. Thanks to it, I started to believe in myself and got to the All-Russian contest in programming. I did good on some task, and they told about me: "Look, how this schoolgirl bests the contest's award winners".

Vedana Voronina, third year at the Computer Technology Department of ITMO University

I started programming accidentally. It all began in secondary school, when one of my teachers told me to try myself in an informatics contest. Then, I didn’t know that programming will become my passion and profession! I got interested, and started going to different courses on the subject, and gradually immersed into this world. Now, I can't even image my life without solving tasks and coding. Surely, there are fewer girls in programming, but I feel support from our guys. They are always ready to help, and that's great. The main thing is to never wind down — to work hard and never give anyone reasons to think that programming is not for women.

Vedana Voronina

I'd like to think that most people in our profession are free from stereotypes, yet there can be different situations. I remember a situation when a girl was chosen between two equally capable programmers — just because female programmers are rare, and they give edge to any team. Yet, unfortunately, sometimes it happens the other way.

Nadejda Ratskevich, graduate of the Department of Computation Technologies of Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University "LETI", works in Devexperts

When I was a kid, I received a Dendy console as a gift, and was startled by the many ways a game can develop. This looked like real magic, and I wanted to be part of it. I can't say that I chose my university consciously: then, LETI was relatively easy to get into, as one had to take traditional exams, not the Unified State Exam that was still in testing. From my point of view, self-education is the most important thing, like in the xkcd comic on "one weekend messing with pearl".

Nadejda Ratskevich

One has to read books on programming, do online courses, participate in contests, learn new languages and paradigms and of course do one's own projects. And that doesn't stop once you graduate.

I never thought about how I feel about being surrounded by male programmers. My colleagues are unique people, each with his background, personality, hobbies. With most of them, I can discuss not only programming, but things like surviving a zombie apocalypse or gliding.

Yet, once I had to face gender disparity. After I graduated, I was asked during a job interview: "It's common knowledge that women are bad at programming. Why did you decide to study it?". I was so shocked that I couldn't think up a smart comeback, so I said: "My grandma has been writing in assembler for like 30 years, and everyone was fine with her work". By the way, it's true, though she used other languages as well. Also, people at that company said that they don't have any testers, as one doesn't need them as long as the code is written well. Such companies and people are a horrible exclusion. Generally, IT-industry is a modern, progressive and friendly community. So one should not be afraid of stereotypes — just keep calm and write code!