“Don’t discourage women who want to go into IT”

Published on: 3 March 2023

Yes, of course there are women who like working in IT. That is a message software developer Sabine de Win is very keen to get across. A more diverse gender distribution in the profession is also much needed. She explains why this is so, on March 29, in collaboration with Business Information Analyst Frederique Janssens during APG's devConf 2023.


As a software developer at APG, Sabine de Win participated for the first time in devConf, an event organized by the pension administrator to boost the South Limburg developer community. When asked for feedback afterwards, she really only had one comment: “Why isn’t there a woman in the organization?” After which Sabine was immediately accepted into the ranks.

March 29 will be her baptism of fire to give a presentation herself at the event. “The topic is Power to the Wo-Men, women in IT. But I wondered who really wants to know what I think about that?” Until she struck up a conversation with colleague and Business Information Analyst Frederique Janssens and the pair found out that there is a lot of research on the topic and a need for people to talk about it as well.

Impetus for developers – March 29 devConf in Heerlen

Pension administrator APG is organizing the year’s devConf again this year. It will be held at the Brightlands Campus in Heerlen on March 29 and aims to give the South Limburg developer community a boost with new ideas. This year’s line-up includes some familiar faces, some surprising new speakers and also international speakers who were previously featured at J-Fall and AzConf 2022. Curious? Go to devconf.nl for the full program. Anyone interested in IT is welcome, registration is required to reserve a spot.

Eye opener
“Do you know that twice as many women work in IT in the US than in the Netherlands? How cool would it be if we reach that number here too!” In preparation for her presentation, Sabine learned a lot. “Women who searched for an abortion clinic on their iPhone via Siri several years ago were sent to an adoption center. But at the same time, Siri knew where to buy Viagra. Things like that don’t happen when there is a woman on the team who can provide feedback.”

Besides sharing interesting facts, Sabine also has a clear goal in mind for at the event. She wants to make men aware that there are women who do like IT. “My wish is that there will never be another man who tells a woman she’s crazy if she wants to work in IT. Don’t suppress that interest in women, or young girls.”

Her mission stems in part from her own experience. As a child, Sabine was very strong socially, and for that reason was gently pushed in the direction of the alpha subjects by school and her parents. All the while, Sabine de Win was interested in computer games and personal computers. “When my father retrained as a systems administrator, it intrigued me immensely. I always wanted to know what he was doing.” But because of her choice of studies, that interest remained a hobby - if a website needed to be created you could turn to Sabine - and she ended up in the events industry. There she filled her days with, basically, organizing weddings.

Starting over
Maybe it was the hormones, maybe it was just the right time, but during the pregnancy of her first child, Sabine decided to take a different path after all. “For me, working in the event industry did not go hand in hand with having a family. The idea to finally do some coding arose during that period. I was going to take that step, even if it meant starting all over again.”

Sabine attended a boot camp at a company that does nothing but train and retrain people for the IT industry. Sabine learned to build a website in the computer language PHP in three months. “The goal of that bootcamp was for the penny to drop during those three months, and if it did you were seconded,” she said. Sabine eventually ended up at APG. “It immediately clicked and I got the chance to start at a place where coding is still done in a slightly older computer language. That’s the perfect stepping stone for me to gain experience in a development environment. I also get the space to learn other languages.”

That she works primarily among men who have an edge doesn’t bother Sabine. “I haven’t felt for a moment that they look down on me. They all want to help me develop myself and get ahead. I also really enjoy it. As a programmer, you have to be flexible, able to learn quickly. It also requires a lot of people. I use the creativity that I used in the events industry now. The fact that I sometimes think differently from IT people who have been doing this work for longer can be an advantage.”


No girly stuff

Her boyfriend immediately raved about the career move, but Sabine’s friends declared her crazy. “They said I would be miserable among ‘all those stuffy developers, those nerds who aren’t social at all.’ But apparently people like that work at another company because at APG I don’t run into them. Today's developers may be different. And although my friends are very happy for me - they see how happy I am now - they are less interested in my work than when I was organizing weddings. We don’t talk about girly stuff now, about what the bride looked like.”


Finding the problem
The smile that appears from ear to ear on Sabine's face betrays that she can do without that girl talk. “It makes me so happy when I have to find a problem in a code. Or when I have to come up with the solution to a problem. For example: my team delivers the payment statements of our pension fund clients' participants every month. Then if the net amount is incorrect, that's a big problem created by an error in the code. I then go into the code to find where it goes wrong. That code is written in a programming language - EGL, which I work with generates JAVA, for example - that makes the known zeros and ones readable.

It’s all about logic. Think of it as a mixing machine in a factory. Flour goes in, and milk and eggs. The machine mixes, it goes into the oven and a loaf comes out. Each machine has its functionality, yet it can go wrong somewhere. There can be too much milk in the bread, so to speak. I then find out where and how that happens.”

Sabine is curious and eager to learn. She knows she’s not going to be the next Steve Jobs, but she sees a world of possibilities she can still explore. “I want to be employable in multiple areas: front end and back end. I want to create something and I need skills to do that. That’s also the nice thing about starting a career again.” In addition, the software developer also wants to be a fun mom to her two children. “For them, I am mom, but they can see that I work hard and enjoy continuing to learn. Guaranteed, I’m going to teach my four-year-old daughter to code, too. As soon as she is a little settled at school. My husband is also a big fan of this; we can already see ourselves doing little coding projects with her. We won’t have a doll house; she’s not interested in dolls, she’s a real explorer.”


Discovering for themselves

Which brings us back to the presentation Sabine is giving March 29 at devConf. “Very few women start with an education in IT and if they do, they often drop out. Too bad, because many of them are really good at it. I also see this when I teach elementary school students with digital skills to program in Scratch. I see real budding female programmers. Girls who get excited about it. But keep them enthusiastic! And let more girls and women come into contact with it. Because it is still unknown territory for many. They don't know what you can do with it and what the atmosphere is like in a team. Women just have to discover it for themselves.”

Power to the Wo-Men

Sabine de Win and Frederique Janssens March 29, 3:05 – 3:50 p.m.

Did you know that programming was a woman’s job? Or that the term “computers” was synonymous with female programmers? Very few women work in IT today, but there is much more femininity in our great field than you think. In this presentation, we will take you into the world of women in IT and why a diverse gender balance is needed in our field. And for that, we definitely also need men!