It's Ada Lovelace day, a day when we celebrate women in technology. This year I'd like to mention a group of people who make the biggest difference in the tech life of any minority: the allies.
Who are the allies? This is hard to quantify, but it's the people who see humans as humans. For me it's the man from another department who answered all my questions and eventually seconded me for a project that taught me a huge amount. He mentored me before I knew what the word meant. It's the boss who can see past a lack of confidence, or who can listen without either hearing some high-pitched nonsense or telling me to "calm down dear". It's the colleague who dragged me onto his team and pushed me out of my comfort zone over and over until he FINALLY figured out what I was capable of.
Outside of work it's the conference organiser who trusts me with a speaking slot, the IRC friends who listen without dismissing me and sometimes offer advice. It's the open source people who ask for my patches and then take them seriously. The person who retweets me so that my minority voice can be heard by more people.
My allies are the people who look at me like I might be hiding a brain under the curly hair. Who can assume that I know how to plug in my own laptop, that I'm accepted to speak at an event because I'm an experienced speaker with a relevant topic, who assume I'm competent unless and until I prove that isn't the case! It's the people who can hear me, despite the way I look and sound, despite the obviously-female online nick. Those are my allies.
Do you want to be an ally? Some excellent resources for you here: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Resources_for_allies.
To allies everywhere: many thanks. You will never know what a big difference your small encouragements make, but you are changing the world.